November 5th is a notorious date for people living in the UK. “Bonfire Night” is the one evening of the year where many people, usually children, build bonfires on waste grounds, or attend authorised fireworks displays.
Yet the tradition of building bonfires and setting off fireworks is a commemoration of something that did not happen.
In 1605 a group of disaffected radical Catholics hatched a plan to kill King James VI by sneaking barrels of gunpowder into a cellar beneath parliament before blowing it sky high.
One of the conspirators was captured and tortured, and gradually the rest of the gang were apprehended and executed. The first to be captured was a man named Guy Fawkes, and the “guy” is the name given to a homemade effigy of this traitor to the nation, which children would cart around the neighbourhood (“penny for the guy”) before being burned on the bonfires. Nice.
I was fascinated with the story of the failed act of terror, and how many people blindly follow the traditions without realising the truth behind them. I wrote my play THE GUNPOWDER PLOT which toured some small venues across Scotland on the 400th anniversary of the plot.
THE GUNPOWDER PLOT is a fictionalised account of the hour before Guy Fawkes was tortured. The conspirator, housed in The Tower of London, is visited by the young writer William Shakespeare who has a remarkable conspiracy to reveal about the plot of one of his plays – but then King James appears…
If you like what you see in the extract, I have added the link to the play on Amazon, where it can be purchased for just a few pennies (or free, if you have Kindle Unlimited).
Information on the original production can be found by clicking here.