HFS Special: England, My England

Tony Palmer
Victoria Hall
25 Feb 2024 2:00pm - 5:00pm
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The Highgate Film Society will show a special performance of England, my England, (1995) directed by Tony Palmer and written by John Osborne and Charles Wood, about the great English composer Henry Purcell.

The music is conducted by John Eliot Gardiner with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra and members of the English Chamber Orchestra.

It stars Michael Ball as Purcell and Simon Callow as Charles II. Also involved are John Fortune, Peter Woodthorpe, Murray Melvin, Rebecca Front, John Shrapnel, John Fortune, Robert Stephens, and Corin Redgrave.

We are delighted that the film will be introduced by Tony Palmer, the director.

England, My England is about Henry Purcell, the English composer best known for his opera, Dido and Aeneas and the great Funeral March he wrote for the death of Queen Mary, only to have it performed again a year later for his own funeral, at the age of 36.

Very little is known about Purcell’s life, not even where he was born or the names of his parents. He died at the same age as Mozart, but we only know in detail what he did for three of these years.

John Osborne, the original Angry Young Man, was a great fan of Purcell’s music.  He decided to write a film that would parallel the reign of Charles II (1660-1685) and the period of Purcell’s flourishing ,with the ‘reign’ of the Royal  Court Theatre (1956-1979) in which Osborne had flourished, himself. Osborne believed there were many parallels between the two eras. England in the 1660s and 70s was preoccupied with freedom of speech, economic expansion, treaties with Europe, the collapse of conventional morality and the futility of war. So was England in the 1960s and 70s.

The film opens with a group of actors performing Shaw’s ‘In Good King Charles’ Golden Day,’ to a dire box office return. One of the actors suggests finding another play about the period that will be more popular. The producer gives them a week to come up with something and they decide to focus on Purcell ,whose life neatly coincided with the reign of Charles II.

Osborne uses the dramatic device of switching effortlessly back and forth between the two periods of the 1660s and the 1960s using the same actors in each, with a strong focus on Purcell’s music set against the political and artistic issues of the time.

Michael White in The Independent on Sunday wrote ‘The film touches on some profound truths about the personalities behind the music. As the titles rolled, so did this critic’s tears.’

View here England, My England brochure

Doors Open at 1.30pm and the film will start at 2pm

All tickets £18. This includes refreshments.
Please book by 1pm on Friday 23 February, alternatively pay on the door.