The Unprecedented Case (2018)

In October 1545, Sir Ralph Sadleir learned that his wife and the mother of seven surviving children, Ellen Mitchell, had been married before. In order to save his reputation and legitimise both his marriage and his children, he wrote a letter to his employer and close friend Henry VIII, asking for help. The Act of Parliament that followed annulled Ellen’s first marriage on the grounds that her husband, Matthew Barre, had abandoned her, saved Sir Ralph’s family as well as his career. It was a truly unprecedented case.

Less than a year after our successful pilot, ‘The Unprecedented Case’ project returned to Sutton House, bringing together 31 SEND, EAL and PPG Year Six pupils from four Hackney primary schools – one more school and ten more pupils than the year before.

Puppeteer Rachel Warr returned to take the reins on a quite incredible production, alongside rising stars of the London jazz scene, Cassie Kinoshi (saxophone), Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpet), and Rio Kai (double bass) – since nominated for a Mercury Music Prize, as part of Cassie Kinoshi’s SEED Ensemble. The puppetry and the theatre was bold and intricate, comedic and heart-warming, while the music was a brilliant celebration of Hackney’s Tudor past and vibrant, multi-cultural present – and future.

Thanks to our partnerships with the National Trust and the Parliamentary Archives, the children were able to spend six full days at Sutton House, exploring literacy, music and puppetry through artist-led workshops. They also enjoyed a trip to the Houses of Parliament, which included a full tour,an unprecedented exploration of the Parliamentary Archives – where we saw the 1545 Act that saved Sir Ralph’s marriage to Ellen – and workshops exploring Tudor scroll-making technology.

The final performance featured drums, xylophones, shakers, rain-sticks, percussion, and ukuleles, as well as a cast of puppets including Sir Ralph, Matthew, Ellen and King Henry VIII. It was a truly inventive and quite brilliant show, which the children developed, created, devised, and performed to a tee and to rapturous applause. We wish them all the best of luck as they begin secondary school in September!

Further thank you’s to Promoworx for our wonderful print, Ark Build Plc., Stephen Backes, Sarah Blome, Rosie Frecker, and to filmmaker/photographer Julia Lemos Lima.