REVIEW: Film reveals past of Suffolk manor house

Drawn on Sweet Night showed at the Abbeygate Cinema as part of the 2017 Bury Festival
Drawn on Sweet Night showed at the Abbeygate Cinema as part of the 2017 Bury Festival
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Draw on Sweet Night at Abbeygate Cinema, May 20

Composer John Wilbye spent his entire working life in the employment of Sir Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Kytson at Hengrave Hall, Suffolk.

Unusually, after his second book of Madrigals was published in 1609 it appears he did not compose again despite being kept on at the house by Lady Kytson until her death in 1628.

Draw On Sweet Night examines this mystery in a periodic costume drama, produced in collaboration with renowned vocal group I Fagiolini.

In the 1600s wealthy families would keep composer ‘servants’ as part of their staff and estate.

John Wilbye was one such servant, however, Lady Kytson came to rely on his music to keep her in good spirits following the death of her husband, and so kept him much closer than was typical.

In a revealing contrast, the story switches back and forth between modern and Tudor times, allowing the viewer to appreciate the differences between daily life in these two eras.

John Wilbye wasn’t just famous for his musical talents though and throughout the film he seduces several women, including Lady Kytson’s daughter Mary, Lady Arbella Stewart and property owner Elizabeth Cornwallis, as they are all drawn irresistibly to his harmonies.

Scenes depicting the wealth and lavish lifestyles of the privileged were shot realistically due to the authenticity of the location and Tudor pronunciation replaced modern English to good effect.

The lead role was played well by Mark Arends as he captured the mythical magnetism of John Wilbye. I felt I gained some insight into his story, and the story of the day from the film.