Bachs and Coxes: Musical history comes alive

by Andrew Wilson

Magical things can happen in the Morris Space, on the top floor of Park Theatre. Last Thursday two generations of Coxes played two generations of Bachs when The Score, a new play by Oliver Cotton received its first reading by a full cast, with live keyboard accompaniment.

Jez Bond and Brian Cox

The Score deals with a historical event: a visit in 1747 by Johann Sebastian Bach – then 62 – to the court of King Frederick II of Prussia, who was an accomplished flautist as well as an “enlightened monarch” by the standards of his day.

In the reading, Johann Sebastian Bach was played by Brian Cox, while his real-life son Alan played the composer’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who was for many years a member of Frederick’s court orchestra. The obvious complicity between the two actors gave a special energy to the reading, which weaves witty dialogue and serious political, religious, and musical themes. Voltaire makes an appearance, and there is a cruel plot by the monarch and some court musicians to test the celebrated improvisational skills of “old Bach” with an intentionally difficult musical theme.

It is not the first time Brian Cox has played JS Bach. “I played him 30 years ago in a BBC drama,” commented Cox after the reading, “but this play is far more interesting. And it’s an Olly Cotton script, so it’s a joy to speak.”

Oliver Cotton is of course no stranger to Park audiences, having written the 2013 hit Daytona, whose star, Maureen Lipman, attended this reading.

Asked if the play was likely to be produced at the Park in the near future, Artistic Director Jez Bond replied that the next 18 months are already programmed. “It’s a big production with eight parts, so it would be a challenge financially,” he mused but – smiling broadly at the question – didn’t rule it out.

Who knows? Perhaps the early dose of Morris magic might make the difference.

The full cast of the reading was: Brian Cox, Alan Cox, John Sessions, Nicholas Rowe, Michael Thomas, Joseph Balderrama, David Acton, and Toby Sedgwick. Keyboard accompaniment was provided by Ben Comeau, and stage directions were read by John Wark.

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