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The Sound of My Own Voice

Author: Tim Porter. Play, 1986

Off the rough streets of 18th Century Gloucester, the pot-boy of the Bell Tavern became the era’s greatest superstar. Young George Whitefield faced a choice; the pulpit or the stage? Whichever he chose, he was destined to live by the sound of his own voice.

That voice was probably heard by more people than any other in world history till the gramophone. Travelling restlessly through Britain and America, Whitefield harangued vast crowds, provoking agonies of repentance and ecstasies of rapture. Yet this amazing talent might so easily be known to us in a very different guise, had Whitefield wished to be another Garrick. “The Sound of My Own Voice” pays particular attention to the life of the young Whitefield, and the dilemma which confronted him. The first production was part of the Gloucester Whitefield Celebration, marking the 250th anniversary of George Whitefield’s first sermon which is reputed to have been so forceful as to drive fifteen people mad.

Author’s Note

Until more is known about what makes us what we are, speculation will run riot about people like George Whitefield. What made him what he was? Little is certain about his early years in Gloucester; so the facts which are known assume the utmost significance -
1. He was brought up by his mother (his father having died young).
2. His mother’s second marriage was unhappy, and ended in separation while the boy was a teenager.
3. He harboured early aspirations towards the stage.

To this combination of circumstances one must add the fact that he grew up in the centre of and ancient city with a long tradition of dissent and independence. Gloucester had closed its gates against, in turn, the Black Death, Queen Margaret, and Charles I; to its children, it was both refuge and prison.

George Whitefield did escape the embrace of those ancient walls, and became in truth a citizen of the world. But his successes in later life form a high plateau, featureless compared to the murky ravine of his origins. These early years, therefore, are the ones likely to arouse the imagination. Knowing the outcome, there is a compulsion to project backwards, to reconstruct one of the many beginnings that might lead into such an end. This play is an attempt to do so.

Tim Porter

Character list

George Whitefield
Elizabeth, his mother
Richard, his brother
Capel Longden, his stepfather
Rev. Daniel Bond
Charles Wesley
Actors in the Pageant


June 1986: Tour