by Joanna Carrick.

The Tower of London (Banqueting Suite, New Armouries) To 16 June 2013.
3.30pm, 6.30pm, 9pm 17-19, 25, 31 May; 1, 8, 13-15 June.
3.30pm & 6.30pm 26 May, 9, 16 June.
also Gippeswyk Hall Gippeswyk Avenue IP2 9AF.
6pm & 8.30pm 22-23, 28-29 May, 4-6 June.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 01473 703388.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15, 17 May.

Portrait of the woman behind a queen, and a vigorous picture of the early Tudor world.
William Shakespeare famously bequeathed his wife his second-best bed; Joanna Carrick’s play claims Henry VIII sent his second-best doctor to his mistress Anne Boleyn when she fell ill. After Howard Brenton’s bold 2010 Anne Boleyn, it’s tempting to say Carrick has written (and directed, for Ipswich-based Red Rose Chain) the second-best play about the woman who became Henry’s second wife.

Yet Brenton’s epic for Shakespeare’s Globe and this literal chamber piece work on different scales. This is a second ‘best play’ about Boleyn.

It starts like a two-on-a-Tudor-bed romp. But Anne and George are siblings, their youthful energy and education emerging in recreating Aesop fables – clearly a shared childhood game – and mocking imitations of people.

Speculating on life and religion, they voyage through years that bring dilemmas and the king’s attentions to Anne. Henry is never seen, his approach suggested by a blast from one of his compositions (called, aptly or ironically, ‘Pastime with Good Company’).

Being queen bends Ann’s joyous energy and wit towards biting command, followed by fear when the king turns from her, while the initially irresponsible George becomes horrified at the dirty deeds which can flow from idealistic projects as the Reformation takes shape.

Finally, the bed that’s been their meeting-place is stripped to become a place of execution where they’re separated, speaking to each other only in their imaginations.

Emma Connell’s Anne and Scott Ellis as George provide superb, close-up reality. Despite full Tudor costume, the centuries vanish as Carrick varies mood within her overall arc, unobtrusively fills-in background events and focuses on human realities.

Amid the Tower’s formal elegance, audience seated in one or two rows around, political shifts stand-out amongst personal dynamics. At Red Rose Chain’s stately Ipswich home, the tighter space of someone’s front room increases the sense of private lives and the characters’ shared outlook. Sound and lighting operate from the capacious fireplace, brother and sister share the sole door. The Tower allows separate entrances, loosening the sense of a family unit, increasing that of separate adult lives. But, vivaciously directed and acted, it’s an exhilarating experience in town or city.

Anne Boleyn: Emma Connell.
George Boleyn: Scott Ellis.

Director: Joanna Carrick.
Designer: Jimmy Grimes.
Lighting: David Newbborn.
Sound: Simon Doling.
Costume: Gemma Rushbrook, Lisa Castro.

2013-05-19 14:20:46

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