Ties That Bind Us

“It was like every blade of grass and every branch of every tree was wearing a coat of icy spears. Enamelled. I saw a winter apple hanging like a horse-chestnut in glass.” 


Ryan Nolan as Percy, Lauren Waine as Rowan. (Photo: Von Fox Promotions)

Stewart Pringle’s Play for Live Theatre Newcastle and the Royal Court is a compelling curiosity set 500 years ago in the origins of football, not with severed heads as balls on a battle field, but between two rival villages.  The playing area stretches for several miles and the winner scores by hitting a tree in the rival territory. 

Rowan (Lauren Waine) and Percy (Ryan Nolan) have been tasked with looking after the northern boundary of their village Allendale in the annual Whitsun game against rivals Catton. They are part of the team which has unlimited numbers. They are both rather low in the pecking order and that is why they have been sent so far away from the action which can last for days and the past casualties include a notable death by drowning. 

Set in the sixteenth century, the religion of England is in a state of flux.  Henry VIII has changed the religion from Rome to Protestantism to allow him to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Ann Boleyn.  Ann Boleyn has met her end after failing to deliver a male heir and Jane Seymour has died in Childbirth while delivering the sickly Edward VI who becomes king at nine years old.  The kingdom is effectively ruled by Edward’s Seymour uncles and then as Lord Protector John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.  Edward’s death in 1553 will leave Lady Jane Grey as his chosen Protestant heir and his sister Mary Tudor as the Catholic choice.

Lauren Waine as Rowan (Photo: Von Fox Promotions)

Rowan and Percy are peasants, their clothes homespun, his legs bound with cloth that looks like hessian or sack cloth.  Percy talks about his team as if he is a 21st century fan throw back to the 16th century.  Rowan reports that their best player was seen carousing at The Cock Inn the night before the match which winds up Percy.   The set is grass covered mounds and piles of beech leaves.  

Then there is the arrival of a stranger, the mysterious Samuel (Soroosh Lavasani) dressed in velvets and full breeches like an aristocrat.  For Percy, Samuel is an interloper probably from Catton.  Samuel admits to being the son of a squire.  Rowan talks about omens and her visions of the future. 

A boy Robert (Wilbur Conabeare or Harry Weston) is beating the bounds but on seemingly the wrong date.  This development will have earth shattering meaning for Percy in terms of his identity.  Finally there are forward visions of the future of warfare and chaos.

Interestingly far away from Northumberland at Whitsun 1553 in the Strand London, John Dudley Duke of Northumberland is marrying his son Lord Guildford Dudley to Lady Jane Grey, the Protestant heir to the Crown.  Meeting Samuel is as close as Percy and Rowan will be to the ensuing conflict on the death of the king.  Although John Dudley will be executed his son Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester will rise to be a favourite of Elizabeth I.  Can it be a coincidence that the Percy family become  the Dukes of Northumberland?  

There were times when I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening in Stewart Pringle’s play but I found it engaging, involving with plenty of strong one liners. 

Soroosh Lavasan as Samuel (Photo: Von Fox Promotions)

Production Notes

The Bounds

Written by Stewart Pringle

Directed by Jack McNamara



Lauren Waine

Ryan Nolan

Soroosh Lavasani

Wilbur Conabeare

Harry Weston


Director:  Jack McNamara

Designer:  Verity Quinn  

Composer: Jayne Dent

Movement and Fight Director: Alicia Meehan 

Lighting Designer: Drummond Orr

Sound Designer: Matthew Tuckey


Running Time: One hour 30 minutes without an interval

Booking to 13th July 2024


Jerwood Theatre Upstairs

Royal Court Theatre

Sloane Square

London SW1W 4AS

Phone: 020 7565 5000

Website: royalcourttheatre.com

Tube: Sloane Square


by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Royal Court

on 27th June 2024