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Anne Boleyn (2013)
Written by Howard Brenton
Sat 11th May to Sat 18th May
Production Photos
Anne Boleyn – Nicol Cortese
King Henry VIII – Craig Shelton
Thomas Cromwell – Brian Emeney
Cardinal Wolsey – Hugh Sorrill
Lady Rochford – Lucy Hayton
Lady Celia – Ashleigh Dickinson
Lady Jane – Naomi Hook
Simpkin – Ben Lancashire
Sloop – Dan Searles
William Tyndale – Mark Wiszowaty
King James I – Jon Elves
Robert Cecil – Keith Railton
George Villiers – Joe Fallowell
Parrott – Dan Darragh
Dean Lancelot Andrewes – John Hathaway
Dr John Reynolds – Peter Brooks
Henry Barrow – Bill Bosworth
1st Countrywoman – Shirley Jobson
2nd Countrywoman – Sue Hadlum
Countrywoman – Christine Ingall
Countryman – Pete Meredith
Countryman – Laurentiu Moldoveanu
Lady of the Court (Elizabeth) – Steph Othen
Lady of the Court (Mary) – Stella Gabriel
Puritan – Shirley Jobson
Guard – Hugh Sorrill
Puritan – Ben Lancashire
Guard – Bill Bosworth
Puritan – Hugh Sorrill
Puritan – Stella Gabriel
Courtier – Pete Meredith
Courtier – Laurentiu Moldoveanu
Courtier – Dan Darragh
Courtier – Sue Hadlum
Courtier – Joe Fallowell
Courtier – Mark Wiszowaty
Divine – Sue Hadlum
Divine – Steph Othen
Divine – Mark Wiszowaty
Divine – Pete Meredith
Divine – Dan Searles
Divine – Christine Ingall
2nd Countryman – Peter Brooks
1st Countryman – Bill Bosworth
Countryman – Ben Lancashire
Voice of Guard – Peter Brooks
Countryman – Dan Darragh
Countryman – Dan Searles
Servant – Laurentiu Moldoveanu
Servant – Steph Othen
Servant – Christine Ingall
Servant – Shirley Jobson
Countrywoman – Stella Gabriel
Servant – Sue Hadlum
Servant – Pete Meredith
Countrywoman – Steph Othen
Director – Jane Railton
Choreographer – Robin Stokoe
Set & Lighting Design – Karl Stafford
Stage Manager – Anne-marie Greene
Sound – Dave Cornish
Wardrobe – Maureen Liggins
Wardrobe – Pam Coleman
Props – Annie Woodward
Props – Chris Jones
Props – Nicola Gabriel
Prompt – Jonathan Rees
Wardrobe – Christine Ingall
Props – Bob Morley
Director's Assistant – Anne-marie Greene
Set Build i/c – Karl Stafford
Set Build – Dave Holmes
Set Build – Kate Haigh
Set Build – Peter Haigh
Lighting Operator – Karl Stafford
Lighting Operator – Joshua Pink
Choir Master – Bill Bosworth
Music Composition – Nicol Cortese
Wardrobe – Doreen Belton
Wardrobe – Julie Timerick
Wardrobe – Terry Balhatchet
Hair Styling – Sinead Finn
Prop Design – Bob Morley
The Programme

Traditionally seen as a pawn manoeuvred into Henry VIII's bed by an ambitious father and his friends, or as a sexually licentious predator, even a witch, Anne Boleyn here is shown to be witty and confident in her sexuality, as she takes on the vicious world of Tudor Court politics. She is in love with Henry - but also in love with the most dangerous ideas of her day. Howard Brenton's astonishing drama memorably brings to life a brilliant but reckless young woman, whose marriage and death transformed England for ever.

In one of many telling moments in Howard Brenton's sharp and shrewd script, Henry VIII is informed by the most historically fascinating of his many wives-to-be that "truth is power." The King demurs. "Power is truth," he booms back. Or to put it another way: "What I say goes."
It helps that Craig Shelton's Henry has the physical presence to leave us in no doubt about that. His imposing height is enhanced by added, padded corpulence, and the difference in size between him and the slim, slight woman he craves is tellingly emphasised every time they converse and embrace.
Nicol Cortese cleverly captures what is required by Brenton's interpretation of Anne as "the woman who changed England." Articulate, feisty and seductive? Oh, yes. But she also manages to convey the caged frustration of an intelligent and passionate woman ultimately trapped in a world of powerful men. She weaves her way around the lumbering Henry, drawing him in. Yet whenever he clasps her to him, there is always a sense that here is a man with strength enough to crush her like an injured butterfly when she is no longer required.
The king is a man of venal appetites and grand gestures. Not one for fine details. The wherewithal to bring about what he wants is left to his chief ministers: first Cardinal Wolsey and then the even more devious and ruthless Thomas Cromwell.
Brenton's splendid play spans the period between his scheming heyday as the profiteer of the dissolution of the monasteries and the dawn of the turbulent 17th century. Already evident as James VI of Scotland assumes the throne of England are the seeds of a religious fundamentalism that will eventually bring to power another Cromwell, just over 100 years after Henry's death.
The English Civil War is still a long way in the future when James I takes over from Anne's daughter Elizabeth, but the Puritans are already beginning to mount their challenge to the established Church with the king as its head. Moving backwards and forwards between 1603 and the 1530s is the sort of thing that is easier to portray through film or television than on the stage. But Jane Railton's astute direction pulls it off with aplomb.
It helps that she has opulent costumes, a simple but effective set and, above all, a cast that delivers. Jon Elves brings out all the comic potential of James without undermining his reputation as "the wisest fool in Christendom" - an assessment delivered by Robert Cecil played with a convincing world-weariness by Keith Railton.
James's intellect and literary disposition was undermined by a speech impediment and rampant homosexual desires that made him as camp as a bottle of coffee. But, as Elves also cleverly weaves into his performance, he was paranoid. As well he might be. This, after all was the son of Mary Queen of Scots who had somehow survived in an Edinburgh court riddled by zealous Presbyterians with sharp tongues and sharper knives.
South of the border, things were about to change, change utterly, as this production illuminates so entertainingly. In those nigh-on 70 years between Anne losing her head and the Tudor dynasty finally losing its vice-like grip on the throne, monastic power was beginning to lose its capacity to dictate the truth.

Anne Boleyn by Howard Brenton runs until Saturday March 18.

Written by Chris Arnot
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