by Howard Brenton.
Globe Theatre 21 New Globe Walk Bankside SE1 9DT In rep to 21 August 2011.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 July.
Hugely entertaining, packed with wit and ideas – well worth reviving from last year’s Globe season.
OK, so which British monarch told his consort to “Shut your regal cakehole you royal old hag”? Correct; it was George V in Howard Brenton’s 1971 Scott of the Antarctic. So, no monarchical reverence from Brenton, then. Yet, in his dramatic maturity, the playwright’s cartoon-style construction, gliding as smoothly as the Bradford actors must have in Scott (written for performance on an ice-rink), makes a living heroine out of Henry VIII’s second wife.
Anne leaves not just a severed head, but an illegal English New Testament to be found two regimes on by James I (James Garnon again, still laudably lordly and commandingly frivolous by turns) around 70 years after her execution. She had it from protestant translator William Tyndale, at a secret meeting she bravely attended.
State apparatchik Thomas Cromwell arranged it. But his idealism fades when there’s money from disestablished monasteries to be siphoned from schools and hospitals into family pockets. Brenton’s play, only one year on, surges with new relevance at its rightful restoration.
The King James Bible quatercentenary has kicked-in. Tyndale’s translation was an important source – Brenton has a scene that makes the politics of translation clear. And private fortunes versus public provision have become a topic of the day.
Brenton’s Boleyn shines with intelligence and optimism, and a zest for life. She keeps Henry waiting a biblical seven years for sex, but offers herself with genuine appetite and love. Miranda Raison – back like most of last year’s cast – gives Anne a courage and faith that makes her believably the mother of England’s greatest monarch.
Everything in my review of last year’s premiere (in reviewsgate’s archive) still applies – if anything, Anne Boleyn seems more powerful, every line infused with purpose, energy, passion and wit, demanding to be taken off the page so it can explode into theatrical life.
Chief newcomer is Julius D’Silva, a chilly, calculating Cromwell, who gives nothing away, the opposite of Raison’s Boleyn with her open happiness. John Dove’s direction remains secure as ever, the whole a witty, intelligent delight. If all the world’s a stage, the Globe’s full of world-class theatre.
Robert Cecil: Michael Bertenshaw.
Dean Lancelot Andrewes: Sam Cox.
Lady Jane/Countrywoman 2: Naomi Cranston.
Simpkin/Parrot: John Cummins.
George Villiers/Countryman 1: Ben Deery.
Lady Celia/Countrywoman 1: Mary Doherty.
Thomas Cromwell: Julius D’Silva.
Lady Rochford: Sophie Duval.
Sloop/Countryman 2: Will Featherstone.
King James I: James Garnon.
William Tyndale: Peter Hamilton Dyer.
King Henry VIII: Anthony Howell.
Cardinal Wolsey/Henry Barrow: Colin Hurley.
Anne Boleyn: Miranda Raison.
Dr John Reynolds: Dickon Tyrell.
Others: Claire Bond, Laura Darrall, Nicholas Delvalle, Luke McConnell.
Director: John Dove.
Designer: Michael Taylor.
Composer: William Lyons.
Musical Director: Jon Banks.
Choreographer: Siân Williams.
Movement – Globe associate: Glynn MacDonald.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Terry King.