Catholic Association of Performing Arts performs reading of a play about St Edmund Campion in Covent Garden, London

The Catholic Association of Performing Arts performed a rehearsed reading of a play about St Edmund Campion at the Club for Acts and Actors in Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London, recently, writes Amanda C Dickie.

The play was written by Peter Hardwick, former head of English at Stonyhurst College, who taught Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC. Mr Thompson once described Mr Hardwick as the teacher who had most inspired him.

David (Lord) Alton of Liverpool contacted actor Michael Slater, who is the Association’s Master of Ceremonies, and has directed previous productions at the CAA, to ask about performing the play. John Warnaby, in the role of Campion, led the cast of 26 actors, all members of CaApa – the Catholic actors’ association.

Attending the dramatised reading, which recalled Campion’s heroism and faithfulness, Lord Alton said: “It was a wonderful occasion and the play was immensely well received by the audience. I thought that it worked extremely well in this format and could easily be adapted for a radio or audio production.

“In some respects, by dispensing with costumes, scenery and the rest, it allowed the story and the words to have all the more impact.”

It was significant, he said, that Pope Benedict’s recent prayer vigil was at Hyde Park, just yards from Tyburn, where Campion died.

Pope Benedict made an explicit plea for religious toleration and for the alignment of faith and reason during his historic address to parliamentarians at Westminster Hall where Campion and his companions were tried, and before them St Thomas More.

Lord Alton remarked: “I doubt whether they would have envisaged that the successor of Peter would be so welcomed at Westminster. As Campion hopefully wrote in the final words of his ‘Brag’: ‘We may at last be friends in Heaven, when all injuries shall be forgiven.’”

CaApa, the former Catholic Stage Guild, celebrates its centenary next year and hopes to repeat the performance at other venues as part of its celebrations.