Mother Sweetapple (2009)

A tender tale

  • Amour Courtois (‘courtly love’) – One of the joys of mediaeval literature such as in Chaucer’s ‘Knight’s Tale’ is the theme of amour courtois or ‘courtly love’ in which a young man courts an apparently unattainable woman through his acts of bravery, suffering & chivalry. This may mean enduring the sharp thorns & formidable walls enclosing & protecting a secret garden in order to finally & triumphantly enjoy the bliss of plucking ‘the unattainable rose’ inside – and learning the lessons that involves. One of the best examples is the wonderful & long poem ‘The Romance of the Rose’, written in two parts, first by Guillaume de Lorris, then forty years later, by Jean de Meun, & probably the most widely read book in the 14th & 15th Centuries.
  • The young man’s perspective – It has always haunted me from my being a young man myself down to today because it deals with how young men behave, their clumsy young efforts to seduce women, their bravado, chauvinism and at best attempts to understand ‘what women really want’, that is… kindness, fairness & room to be fulfilled like any man. It was a tough search when amour courtois was popular & it’s a tough search today. Our play, ‘The Wife’, had the same theme.
  • A tender tale – Our 2009 play, inspired by amour courtois, was a tender tale set in the sultry Tuscan landscape of La Valle delle Roses of teenage love thwarted by stupid young male chauvinism and then rediscovered in maturity (well, relative maturity! How long does it take men to grow up?), of intrigue and attempted murder, of seduction and lycanthropy under a full moon, and the possibility of happiness even for someone with extremely big feet! Lycanthropy, by the way, is the transmutation of a human into a wolf. Be warned!

The Story

  • It’s Tuscany in 1340 – A girl in a powder blue dress wanders in the scorching sun through a field of horse high sunflowers. Filippo, a hot headed young man and son of the local landowner, attempts to seduce her. Years later, now a rich merchant, he returns home. In his path is a woman, Mother Sweetapple, who has been locked in a walled garden for 21 years. Part fairy tale, part detective story, & very much courtly love, the play bit by bit reveals who she is and how time like sleep changes our perceptions and values. It was funny and a little bit bawdy, but poetic and challenging, too. Possibly remembered more for its bawdiness than its tender message & poetry. Maybe we should do it again & set the message straight?