King Alfred's Kitchen


King Alfred’s Kitchen by Chris James 

Please read carefully all the details, in particular rehearsal and performance dates. If you are unsure whether unavailability will be an issue please check first by emailing

Director: Jez Pike    Production Dates:  22nd -26th May         Location: Emmerson Studio

Performance Schedule

Please note that due to the number of matinees, actors will need daytime availability for the week of the 21st May.

Mon 21st: Tech in afternoon, followed by Dress in evening

Tues 22nd: 1pm performance      Wed 23rd: 1pm performance                                         

Thurs 24th: 1pm performance     Friday 25th: 2.30pm & 7.30pm performance

Sat 26th: 2.30pm & 7.30pm performance

Rehearsal Dates: From Mon 9th April. 4-5 rehearsals a week, including some Sunday mornings.

Audition Dates 

1st round:

Option A: Wed 31st January: 6.30-9.30pm

Option B:  Fri 2nd February: 6.30-9.30pm

2nd round

Option A: Sat 10th February: 3.30pm-5.30pm

Option B: Sun 11th February: 11.30am-1.30pm

Please note all auditionees must in principle be able to attend at least one of the recall dates.

If you are absolutely not able to make an audition date but want to be seen please still email

How to sign-up: This can be done either via email or by coming into the theatre office.

Coming in to the theatre: Sign-up on the sheet specifying which part you would like to be considered for. Choose your preferred first round audition date, and then you will be contacted with an allotted time slot. Extracts to prepare for each part can be collected from the office. A reading copy of the play will also be available.

By email: Email specifying all of the following information:

‘Name’ ‘Phone number’ ‘Email address’ ‘Which part’s you would like to audition for’ and ‘Preferred first round audition date’. Please also specify whether you would like to be emailed a scanned copy of the relevant extract and/or the script. If you don’t specify these requests in your emailed it will be assumed you are collecting hard copies from the office. 

Format of auditions: Extracts provided in advance. First round will consist of one-to-one reading with the director. Recalls will consist of reading extracts in pairs or small groups.

About the Play

A world premiere that will kick-off MadderFirst - a festival of new work presented by The Norwich Players in May. Specially developed for The Maddermarket, King Alfred’s Kitchen is the sequel to Friendly Bombs, winner of the 2016 Nugent Monck New Writing Prize. Friendly Bombs explored the real life trials and tribulations of John Betjeman during WWII and proved an audience favourite when it was presented in the Emmerson Studio in December 2016.

With the same warm-hearted characterisation and immaculate research, King Alfred’s Kitchen shifts the story of John Betjeman on to the 1950’s and the unlikely dramatic territory of Wantage. Now in his 50’s John Betjeman is attempting to settle down and make ends meet….badly. Running a café with his wife Penelope is not going to plan: the food is terrible if not entirely absent, the service is distracted to the point of bizarre and there is marital tension in the kitchen. To make matters worse, there is a food inspector on the prowl. Yet if Betjeman is prepared to commit archaeological vandalism to the famous White Horse of Uffington he may yet uncover a riddle that will bring fame and fortune. If only the furniture would stop breaking.

About the Production

The play is a delightful actor’s piece. Built on rich, warm and perceptive characterization the script is accessible, playful and at times dotted with farce. It also has it’s more tender and reflective moments and doesn’t shy away from presenting the flaws of John Betjeman. The rehearsal process will focus on individual characterisation and the development of believable relationships, using historical research and the writer’s help to underpin the process. The production will seek to create a detailed and accurate period setting which will create an intimate playing atmosphere within the studio.

Cast Breakdown

Males Roles

John Betjeman.Playing age 40’s-50’s. Eccentric and whimsical poet entirely unsuited to everyday living and the modern world. He is a man out of his time and indeed sometimes comes across like only his body has ever reached manhood. His body has seen better days. Often child-like, easily distracted, utterly incapable of prioritising and unable to keep his responsibilities to his wife. Yet he is also deeply sensitive, capable of moments of literary genius (though without much ability to control when or in what direction), and susceptible to genuine melancholia. The part is full of delightful quips and daft comedy, yet also presents the challenge of portraying a man who whilst being difficult not to like, was probably a nightmare to live with.                                                                               

Peter Martin.Playing age mid 30’s-40’s. A failing actor and unpredictable partner in King Alfred’s Kitchen. A glutton for punishment, Peter continues to audition despite repeated rejection and is going up for the part of Horatio in a production of Hamlet. As usual he doesn’t get it; owing to a lack of talent and a lack of good judgement (he attempts a Danish accent only for it to come out Irish). Amiable, but with a somewhat defeated air, Peter is another overgrown boy and thus a natural companion of John. He is dragged into the poet’s mission to dig up the White Horse of Uffington and solve the mysterious riddle. He’s not entirely without guile however as a ruse to secretly bring in bought cakes demonstrates.                                                                

The Rev Maurice Danby. Playing age 50+ The local C of E vicar and long-suffering patron of King Alfred’s Kitchen. Warm-hearted, genuine in his ministry and rather tolerant for a 1950’s vicar. Maurice has clear affection for the Betjeman and is quietly determined to steer his parishioner towards a more responsible path. Maurice’s mild-mannered nature and forbearance in the face of the café’s erratic menu makes him appear passive. Yet secretly he hatches a plan to address John’s infidelity in the form of making the poet eat humble pie. He plants a riddle for Betjeman to stumble across which leads the poet to believe he has discovered ancient treasure, only to finally realise that for once it is he who has been made a fool of.                                                 

Food Standards Inspector & Ernest Betjeman. Playing age Mid 40's to 60's. Part is doubled. The Inspector is supercilious, zealous and humourless. There is something of the Victorian about him in his stiffness and generally formal air. He is deeply unimpressed by his first impressions of King Alfred’s Kitchen and John Betjeman’s ‘customer service’. / Ernest Betjeman is the ghost of Betjeman’s father – who, in a nod to Hamlet – appears to John in a handful of scenes. He is most 'un-ghost' like - chatty, down-to-earth and direct in the challenging of his son's life choices.

Female Roles

Penelope Betjeman. Playing age 40’s/50's. Author, traveller, cook at King Alfred’s Kitchen and long suffering wife of John Betjeman. The daughter of a Field Marshall in India, she is upper-class, imposing, occasionally waspish and part of the ‘horsey’ set. Yet there is a bohemian and highly independent streak in her, borne out by her affected ‘cockney’ accent, and conversion to Roman Catholicism (much to her husband’s bemusement and dismay). She has her own creative ambitions and is rapidly losing patience with her current lot in life.                                                                   

Kathleen Philip. Playing age 30’s/40's. A bright local historian and kindred spirit of Betjeman. She is independently minded, educated, confident and with a manner somewhat older than her years. She hold her own with Betjeman and is quickly established a fellow fan of puzzles and riddles. She’s not put off by his whimsical ways  - she intuitively gets the idea of replacing a real game of tennis with an intellectual one after neither she or Betjeman bring rackets – and shares with the poet a sympathy for the quiet values of an older world, fast receding.

Gillian. Playing age early 20’s. Turns up at the cafe presenting herself as a keen undergraduate at St Hilda’s College, Oxford on a mission to secure a poem from Betjeman to be published in the college magazine. In fact, it transpires this has all been a ruse to meet the celebrated poet. She is in fact a working girl, employed in a Haberdashers who having heard Betjeman on the radio has had her eyes opened to a life less drab than her own, full of laughter and culture. Eager, ambitious and full of optimism Gillian has been inspired to try her luck as an actor. She’s probably rather good as she got a part in the same production of Hamlet that Peter miserably auditioned for.