A community production by York Theatre Royal of C. J. Sansom’s acclaimed Tudor-set novel, Sovereign, is due to take the stage

York Theatre Royal is bringing the novel to life on an outdoor stage at the University of York's King's Manor, in Exhibition Square - one of the key locations in the book - from July 19 to 25.

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Leading the show is Irish actor, Fergus Rattigan, who plays lawyer Matthew Shardlake, who with his assistant Jack Barak is in York awaiting the arrival of Henry VIII, only to find himself plunged into a mystery that could threaten the future of the crown.

York Press: Fergus Rattigan with Women of York chorusFergus Rattigan with Women of York chorus (Image: Charlotte Graham)

Fergus said: "The role of Matthew 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. I’m very used to that outsider nature."

York Press: Scarlett Rowley as Queen KatherineScarlett Rowley as Queen Katherine (Image: Charlotte Graham)

Fergus’ previous stage work includes Lautrec (Camden Fringe), Our Country’s Good (Ramps on the Moon tour), the title role in The Wizard of Oz (Chester Storyhouse) and Snow White (Edinburgh Festival Theatre). 

His TV credits include The Tudors and Game of Thrones.

Actor Sam Thorpe-Spinks plays Jack Barak. He’s no stranger to York, having studied History and Politics at the University of York before training at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

York Press: Edmund Djimramadji and Maurice CritchonEdmund Djimramadji and Maurice Critchon (Image: Charlotte Graham)

His television credits include ITVX’s A Spy Among Friends and Paramount+’s Sexy Beast, and his theatre credits include Faceless (Park Theatre), Emanate (Kiln Theatre) and Something In The Air (Jermyn Street Theatre).

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).

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

The Sovereign Stitchers - volunteers tasked with making Tudor costumes for the cast - 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’.

Juliet Forster, York Theatre Royal’s Creative Director, said: "Rehearsals are underway with our 100-strong community cast and we have been so thrilled by everyone’s passion and enthusiasm."

You can book Sovereign tickets via York Theatre Royal's website.