Catch up with OO John Constable (1963-69)
OO John Constable (1963-69) is an interesting chap. After leaving Queens College Cambridge he travelled widely and toured Europe with theatre groups Sheer Madness, playing Hamlet in the prize winning show Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits, and Kaktus, who produced his play Space Monkey.
John’s many plays include Black Mas, Tulip Features and the stage adaptations of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast and Paul Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast. His radio adaptations of John Wyndham’s novels The Kraken Wakes and Chocky were released on DVD in the BBC’s Classic Radio Sci-Fi series. Solo shows include I Was An Alien Sex God, Raingods Become Me and Spare, inspired by the artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare.
In 1986 he moved to The Borough, in Southwark, then a poor and much maligned part of south London. Here, The Southwark Mysteries, his epic cycle of contemporary Mystery Plays, was first performed in Shakespeare's Globe and Southwark Cathedral on Easter Sunday, 23 April 2000. A new production, directed by Sarah Davey-Hull, was performed in Southwark Cathedral in April 2010 with a professional core cast and crew and a hundred-strong community cast. There were free open-air performances of scenes from the play at The Scoop, More London. In November 2010 John was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of London South Bank University for services to the arts and community and at Southwark's Civic Award Ceremony in May 2011, he received The Liberty of the Old Metropolitan Borough of Southwark.
John’s Sha-Manic Plays, his adaptation of Gormenghast, The Southwark Mysteries and Secret Bankside Walks In The Outlaw Borough are all published by Oberon Books. His poetry collection Spark In The Dark is published by Thin Man Press.
John is still writing and performing and is currently working on a new piece that draws freely on his childhood in Oswestry. This summer he has performed at many festivals, including doing the opening sets in the 'Hole In The Ground' Piano Bar at the Glastonbury Festival, and has given more talks.
His work to protect the Crossbones Graveyard, close to his home in Southwark, has come to fruition. The Garden of Remembrance stands on the site of a post-medieval burial ground and it holds the mortal remains of an estimated 15,000 paupers, more than half of them children, who lived, worked and died in what was once an impoverished and notoriously lawless part of London. It is now open to the public and on, 22nd July, the Dean of Southwark Cathedral conducted an Act of Regret Remembrance Restoration to bless the graveyard and to repent the past wrongs done to those buried there.
More information about John and the Crossbones Project can be found at www.crossbones.org.uk
(photos by Katy Kaos)