James Garnon & Miranda Raison in Anne Boleyn
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Where: West End
18 July 2011 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews Howard Brenton’s richly enjoyable epic won last year’s Whatsonstage.com Best New Play Award and fully deserves its revival at the Globe, where the story of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife and key figure in the Reformation, is unravelled with spring and verve.
John Dove’s production returns with most of the leading players reprising their roles, notably Miranda Raison as the headless Queen, teasing us with her bonce in a bloody bag and brandishing the Tyndale bible which was adapted by King James into his version.
Brenton brings Anne into fictional collision with
James Garnon’s Eddie Izzard lookalike King James at the end – Garnon’s still remarkable performance is much modified, more subdued than last year – in a wonderful clinching scene of recognition and adieu.
His predecessor on the throne of England was Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth, so the play works as both an exposition of the cradle of our culture in Shakespeare’s age, and a sharp Brechtian analysis of the political and religious forces at play, notably in the powerful performances of
Colin Hurley as an earth-larding Cardinal Wolsey and – new to the cast – Julius D'Silva as a superbly fleshed-out Thomas Cromwell, devious and straight-talking.
Cromwell recognises the valour of the woman he finally destroys: "She looked straight at you and wasn’t scared; what man could cope with that?" And Raison plays this heroism to perfection, liberated in death to emphasise further her physical spirit and intellectual independence. She is both devilish and delightful, addressing us as her demons in the future life, unquenchable in her own story.
It all makes for an exemplary historical play which avoids the pitfalls of costume drama thanks to both Dove’s staging and Brenton’s characteristically punchy and vivid dialogue.
Peter Hamilton Dyer repeats his bucolically accented William Tyndale and Sophie Duval makes a fine florid fist of the abused Lady Rochford. - by Michael Coveney Related Content
Subscribe to our free newsletter
Featured Editor's Picks
: The economic impact of Arts & Culture in the UK Infographic When Culture Secretary Maria Miller called for the arts to make their "economic case" for subsidy, t... Plays Cast: Harry Potter star in Southwark Moment, more for Branagh's Macbeth Bonnie Wright, best known for playing Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, will make her stage d... Brief Encounter with ... The Kite Runner's Ben Turner Ben Turner stars in the stage version of the bestselling book The Kite Runner, which runs at Liverpo... Titus Andronicus (RSC) This latest production of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, to borrow from football punditry, is a p... : Britain's outdoor theatres Take Five With half-term approaching, the weather (hopefully) set to improve for the bank holiday weekend and ... West End Live returns to Trafalgar Square next month West End Live, a weekend of free entertainment from top London shows, will return to Trafalgar Squar... : 'I carry the ghost of Gregory Peck on my shoulders' Robert Sean Leonard Actor Robert Sean Leonard is currently playing Atticus Finch in Timothy Sheader's production of To K... To Kill A Mockingbird Twenty years ago, a young Robert Sean Leonard appeared on the London stage with Alan Alda in... X Factor musical titled I Can't Sing!, opens Palladium March 2014 The forthcoming X Factor musical will be called I Can't Sing! The Musical and will premiere at the L... Donmar stages Nick Payne premiere, Wesker's Roots & Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus The Donmar Warehouse has announced its new season, which features the premiere of Nick Payne's new p...