10 May Palace Intrique
he Tudors had it all. Social hierarchy, court politics, religious conflicts, power plays, seduction, infidelity, family alliances, ambition, deception and, at times, integrity. I attended a performance of Mike Poulton’s Wolf Hall Part 1, adapted from the best selling historical novel by Hilary Mantel. Sweeping through the life of King Henry VIII on his eternal quest for a male heir, the play tells the story of his ill fated marriage to Catherine of Arragon and his move to annul his relations with her to then wed Anne Boleyn in the hopes of having the male child he so desperately desires to continue the monarchy.
Lavishly, yet minimalistically, produced at the Winter Garden Theatre, the set is rather awe inspiring for its scale and simplicity. Concrete walls and stair stepped floor are adorned only by a steel structure of open cube shapes hanging from the ceiling at varying levels. Furniture is brought on only when needed and very few props are used. Fireplaces appear in a most ingenious way which I won’t reveal here. The costuming is equally beautiful with sumptuous looking fabrics, headpieces and even sparkly jewels sewn into the arms of King Henry’s sleeves.
It is a fitting visual as the real attention is on the fierce scene work by the cast. Brought to life by the Royal Shakespeare Company the play sizzles from the start and gains in suspense. The scenes are beautifully paced and the play moves quickly. At the end of three hours I was on the edge of my seat, anxious for part two. Even if one knows their English history, they are still drawn in by the events and left wondering what will happen next.
This production is special and well worth the time investment. The play is exciting, educational and entertaining. If you have read the book or are watching the mini series it is still a good compliment as there is no replacement for live theatre. After all, when the court blows up in treason, don’t you want to be there in person?