BRING UP THE BODIES
by Hilary Mantel dramatised by Mike Poulton.
Aldwych Theatre 49 Aldwych WC2B 4DF In rep to 20 September 2014.
7.30pm Tue (except 20, 27 May), Wed, Fri, Sat.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
seats still available, with the best choice in July/August. There are also day seats available from 10.30am.
TICKETS: 0844 453 9025.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 May.
Developing the political labyrinth with fascination and clarity..
Clearly the Royal Shakespeare Company wants people to see their two Hilary Mantel adaptations in chronological order – this second part has no matinees. And there are good reasons for doing that.
In Bodies, Ben Miles is no longer the youthful Thomas Cromwell finding his way around a court which despises him, as in Wolf Hall, but a confident political operator – even when provoked by the king to the dangerous edge of lèse majesté.
Henry VIII has also changed from the youthfully athletic monarch of the first play to a more stately plumpness, though Nathaniel Parker’s finely-considered performance provides consistency in a character as fearful in following his conscience as he is peremptory in insisting on his right to obedience.
He’s someone who recognises the need for his regal splendour to be buttressed by Cromwell’s grey-clad management of events. Miles isn’t Leo McKern, whose Cromwell lurked in dark corners in the film of A Man for All Seasons, with everything apparently planned, but someone racingly inventing tactics then putting his manipulations into practice. It’s hard work.
Cromwell is ruthlessly practical; achieving the king’s will takes precedence over any personal feelings. Mental crises are expressed through the presence of the dead; notably Cromwell’s old boss, Cardinal Wolsey, Paul Jesson showing him aware of every aspect of a situation in death as in life; or the fleeting sight of Cromwell’s dead wife, vanished from the stage before he can call to her.
Ruthlessness shows in his journey round the stage incriminating the nobles he’s arrested. Perhaps not as starkly as on Mantel’s page, but still clearly he moves from cosy chat to cold accusation, with reply-twisting logic showing him the lawyer he’s become – someone who knows a crooked way to reach the place he wants.
It’s somewhere the Boleyn family are in his sights. Lydia Leonard’s proud Anne (hints of the fiercely progressive character of Howard Brenton’s and Joanna Carrick’s recent plays, but more spiteful and ambitious) stands out in her red amid a grey court as she heads ever-more-surely to her doom in this intricately woven, clearly displayed complex of political necessities.
Thomas Cromwell: Ben Miles.
Gregory Cromwell: Daniel Fraser.
Mary Shelton/Lizzie Wykys: Olivia Darnley.
Rafe Sadler: Joshua Silver.
Christophe/Francis Weston: Pierro Niél Mee.
King Henry VIII: Nathaniel Parker.
Anne Boleyn: Lydia Leonard.
Lady Worcester/Jane Seymour/Princess Mary: Leah Brotherhead.
Thomas Boleyn/Thomas Cranmer: Giles Taylor.
George Boleyn/Edward Seymour.: Oscar Pearce.
Jane Boleyn/Katherine of Aragon: Lucy Briers.
Thomas Howard: Nicholas Day.
Lady-in-Waiting/Maid: Madeleine Hyland.
Charles Brandon: Nicholas Boulton.
Thomas Wyatt/Headsman: Jay Taylor.
Harry Percy/William Brereton: Nicholas Shaw.
Henry Norris/Thomas More: John Ramm.
Mark Smeaton: Joey Bates.
Sir John Seymour/Thomas Wolsey/Sir William Kingston: Paul Jesson.
Stephen Gardiner/Eustache Chapuys: Matthew Pidgeon.
Servant: Benedict Hastings.
Ensemble: Mathew Foster, Robert Macpherson.
Director: Jeremy Herrin.
Designer/Costume: Christopher Oram.
Lighting: David Plater.
Sound: Nick Powell.
Music: Stephen Warbeck.
Musical Director: Rob Millett.
Movement: Siân Williams.
Voice coach: Stephen Kemble.
Fights: Bret Yount.
Associate director: Joe Murphy.
Associate designer: Lee Newby.
Associate lighting: Rob Casey.
Associate sound: Andy Hedges.