Thursday, 14 August 2014

'Bring Up the Bodies' Aldwych Theatre *****

The Royal Shakespeare Company has returned to one of its former London homes, which is the Aldwych Theatre, with Mike Poulton’s dramatic adaptation of Hilary Mantel's 2012 novel, ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ and one found the production to be exceptionally thrilling to witness. The play is set in England, 1535, where King Henry VIII has been remarried to Anne Boleyn, with authorisation from Thomas Cromwell as the king’s marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon has been annulled, and who has been arrested with her daughter, Princess Mary. Anne Boleyn is comparatively different to her predecessor. She’s progressively volatile and scheming as she has forced King Henry to eradicate Britain's alliance with the Catholic Church. This inevitably instigated the formation of the Church of England, in which the monarch is the Head of the Church. In addition to this, Henry is aggravated by the fact that his wives have not conceived a male heir to the throne, and the clash with the Holy Roman Empire is increasingly becoming problematic. Due to the fact that Lord Chancellor Thomas More and Cardinal Wolsey are deceased, Cromwell is the King's closest consultant and acts as the delegate against a precarious court as to please the King's desires. Poulton’s narrative is incredibly flawless as the play focuses on a significant aspect of King Henry VIII life where we are viewing the vulgarity of the monarchy and a country fixated with increasing power. One has not seen the other Mantel/Poulton production of ‘Wolf Hall’ as of yet but will endeavour to see it. Paradoxically, ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ does whet ones appetite into seeing the first of the two published books, and Poulton’s dialogue is impeccable and a wondrous interpretation of Mantel’s novels. The performances by the company of ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ were outstanding. Ben Miles is phenomenal as the King Henry VIII’s mentor, Thomas Cromwell. I thought that when he's interrogating the many conquest of Anne Boleyn’s, who she’s been sleeping with was increasingly thought-provoking as his vocal delivery was with immense affection. Lydia Leonard is sublime as Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, in particular when she is about to be beheaded at the end of the play and how powerful she was in portraying a resilient woman, who would do as she pleases. Nathaniel Parker is excellent as the monarch, King Henry VIII, especially when we see his stupidity of the characters persona. The direction by Jeremy Herrin is tremendous as he directs the production with considerable clarity and this is exacerbated with the companies’ transcendent characterisations. Christopher Oram’s set and costume designs are brilliant as we have transported to Medieval England with a pleasurable amount of tenacity and ease, and what our country used to be like. Overall, the experience of ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ was vastly treasured. One hopes that ‘Wolf Hall’ will be up to this standard.

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