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School pupils form an army for Agincourt Play

A Mouthful of Earth - From St Mary Mead to Azincourt

How do you dramatise an epic battle with only three actors? The obvious answer is to use the audience, and that's exactly what we did when we took our play about the Battle of Agincourt to three Hampshire Schools.

School pupils form an army for Agincourt Play

A Mouthful of Earth follows the archer Robert Farley and his two companions as they cross the sea at Portchester with Henry V's army to invade France. After a long and drawn out siege of the town of Harfleur, which eventually results in its surrender, the army marches inland and weeks later encounters the French in a muddy, rain-soaked field near Agincourt. The ensuing battle is one of the most famous in history, mainly due to the fact that the diminished English army managed to defeat the much larger French army against all the odds. 

There are many reasons that Henry's army won victory in France, but a main factor was the skill and might of its trained archers. Arranged in two flanks, each archer was trained to fire 15 arrows a minute, thus creating a deadly hailstorm which rained down on the advancing French cavalry. Once the horses and knights fell down, they sank into the mud and others fell on top of them, creating chaos and mayhem. Added to this, the French side suffered a further devastating blow when Henry V, fearing an attack on the baggage train to the rear of his fighting army, ordered all the French prisoners to be killed and their bodies burned.

The battle is fascinating and dramatic - and it is a real tall order for anyone to perform on stage. But the pupils of Stroud School in Romsey, Toynbee School in Chandler's Ford and Kings School in Winchester all did a fantastic job. After a one-hour workshop with company choreographer Jade Dredge, they performed a four-minute movement piece depicting the Archers firing their deadly arrows, then engaging in hand-to-hand combat; and finally they lined up as French prisoners to meet their fate at the hands of archer Robert Farley as he followed orders to put them to death. 

A Mouthful of Earth - From St Mary Mead to Azincourt is written by Deborah Gearing, directed by Emma Golby-Kirk and features Hampshire-based actors Annie Sanger-Davies, Hannah Timms and Jack Shaw-Downie. Following on from the-the tour of secondary schools, it played at the following venues in areas linked historically to the Agincourt story:

Friday 23 October, St Peter's Church, Bishop's Waltham; Saturday 24 October, Fort Nelson, Portchester; Sunday 25 October Great Hall, Winchester (centenary event - invited audience); Tuesday 27 October, Lockswood Day Care Centre, Locks Heath

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