Shortly after John’s accession to the English throne, an ambassador from King Philip of France comes to his court to demand that John surrender his crown to his nephew, the young Prince Arthur. John refuses and prepares to mount an expedition against France, appointing as one of its leaders Philip Faulconbridge, the bastard son of the late Richard Coeur-de-Lion.
The French and English armies meet outside the walls of Angiers, whose citizens refuse to recognize either John or Arthur as king. Eventually, a diplomatic solution is proposed: a marriage between the French Dauphin, Lewis, and John’s niece, Blanche. This arrangement – accepted by all parties except Arthur’s mother, Constance – falls apart, however, when Cardinal Pandulph excommunicates John for opposing the Pope’s wishes and orders the French king to break the truce. Arthur, captured in the ensuing battle, narrowly escapes execution, only to be killed in an accidental fall.
The English barons, holding John responsible for Arthur’s death, take up the French cause but transfer their allegiance back to John when they learn of the Dauphin’s intended perfidy toward them. It is too late for John, however, who has been fatally poisoned. After his death, John’s son ascends the throne as Henry III, and an honourable peace is negotiated between England and France.
King John was captured live on stage with a full audience at the Stratford Festival’s Tom Patterson Theatre on September 26, 2014, using 10 high definition cameras and 128 tracks of sound to create a lush, surround-sound experience.