Rehearsals have begun for York Theatre Royal’s latest large-scale community production - an adaptation by Mike Kenny of C.J. Sansom’s acclaimed York-set Tudor novel Sovereign.

The play - which will be performed outdoor this summer at King’s Manor where King Henry VIII stayed when he visited almost 500 years ago - will be the follow-up to last year’s The Coppergate Woman, although ‘on a larger scale’.

Sansom published Sovereign - part of his bestselling series of historical murder mystery novels featuring lawyer Matthew Shardlake - in 2007.

It tells the story of Henry’s ‘progress to the north’ in 1541 to cow rebellious northerners who had plotted against him. On the outskirts of York at Fulford Cross terrified city fathers met him and abased themselves, begging forgiveness.

Henry set up court in King’s Manor, with up to 1,500 soldiers in tow. And it is here that much of the action of the novel is set.

Lawyer Matthew Shardlake comes to York to ensure the welfare of a prisoner suspected of conspiracy against the king. But the murder of a glazier and the discovery of a cache of secret documents plunge him into danger.

Partnering with University of York, the Theatre Royal will bring the story to life on an outdoor stage at King’s Manor from July 15-30.

Leading the 100-strong company are two professional actors. Irish actor Fergus Rattigan plays disabled lawyer Matthew Shardlake.

He said: “The role of Shardlake is ideal for me – not only do I love and study the Tudor period but Shardlake very much has my mindset.

“He’s a bit of an outsider, which is something I can relate to both as a disabled person in a world not designed for disabled people but as a foreigner from another country.”

The other professional actor in the cast is Sam Thorpe-Spinks, playing Jack Barak, Shardlake’s assistant.

Juliet Forster, Mingyu Lin and John R. Wilkinson are directing the community production, which also features a large community cast and choir, and others volunteering in backstage production roles.

Featured players include Emma Blackstone (Lady Rockford), Mark Gowland (Henry VIII), Maurice Crichton (Malevrer), Scarlett Rowley (Queen Katherine), Livy Potter (Tamasin), Joe Hopper (Radwinter), Matthew Page (Wrenne) and Katie Leckey (Jennet).

While rehearsals have only just begun, the Sovereign Stitchers - volunteers tasked with making Tudor costumes - have been busy for the past seven weeks. Their costume tally so far is 45 shirts and blouses, 10 trunk hose and breeches, 12 skirts, 26 corsets, 25 doublets, 12 bags, 6 belts, 6 aprons, 46 hats and 48 ‘bum rolls’.

Sovereign, July 15-30 outdoors at King’s Manor. Box office 01904 623568 or