With the new series "The Tudors" due to start on BB2 in October, the Wantage based Icknield Way Morris Men learnt in September that they will be appearing in the second series currently being filmed in Ireland.
"The Tudors" is a spicy account of the life and times of Henry VIII with a screenplay written by Michael Hirst who was an Oscar nominee for his script for "Elizabeth" starring Cate Blanchett. The first series (Season 1) has already been screened coast to coast in the USA and Ireland, and starts in the UK on October 5th. The production, from executive producer Morgan O'Sullivan has been sold to many countries including South America with an estimated global audience of 200 million viewers.
So, work is already underway for a second season featuring a Whitsun Sports setting, including archers, minstrels, fanfare trumpeters, fairground activities and morris dancing.
Writer Michael Hirst is a friend of Martin Foster the Squire of Icknield Way Morris Men, so what could be more fitting that signing up some ready trained morris dancers from Oxfordshire, the home of traditional morris dancing.
The team received the news in early September and had little time to carry out historical research for the music and dance involved. On September 26th, six dancers selected from the team were flown over to Ardmore Studios in Bray near Dublin where AB Productions are currently filming "The Tudors Season 2" under the direction of Dervla Walsh.
After being fitted out at the studios with costumes of the Squires of Court, they were transferred to Lord Meath's estate at Kilruddy House where filming of the May Day scene was taking place on location. The dancers spent 14 hours working on the set alongside stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Henry VIII), Natalie Dormer (Anne Boleyn) and Nick Denning (her father Earl of Wiltshire). The series also stars Sam Niell (Cardinal Wolsey), Jeremy Northam (Thomas Moore) and Henry Cavill (Charles Brandon).
The morris men were filmed in background and foreground scenes as well as from overhead. The director expressed herself highly satisfied with the days filming and on Friday the dancers were flown back to their "day jobs" in Oxfordshire.
The Icknield Way Morris Men will celebrate their 50th Anniversary in 2 years time and were founded at Wantage's Icknield School. They were careful to select music and dances appropriate to the Tudor period. "Present day morris is heavily influenced by country dance styles over the centuries," said Sem Seaborne the team's musician, "and the music we selected was known and used in the 16th Century." The dance was based on an ancient maypole dance from Ducklington in Oxfordshire.
Further Information :
Morris Dancing in The Tudors
for more details of how the dance style and music were derived