Sunday, 14 September 2014

'Wolf Hall' Aldwych Theatre *****

The first production as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Hilary Mantel’s season has been charming audiences at the Aldwych Theatre since May and ‘Wolf Hall’, which has been dramatically adapted by Mike Poulton, and one thought the performance was flawless in all aspects. ‘Wolf Hall’, originally written by Mantel in 2009 depicts the story of the immense growth of Thomas Cromwell, who was raised in a working-class family to becoming the well-respected right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. We are transported to England, 1527 where King Henry VIII has been leading the country for virtually twenty years, and is growing ever so frantic to obtain a male heir to takeover him once he’s passed away. Determined to divorce his current spouse, Katherine of Aragon so that he can marry Anne Boleyn, he hassles the Cardinal to convince the leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope to grants the annulment he's desperate for. Henry VIII grows impatient as there does not appear to be any significant progress, which contributes to the Cardinal’s working relationship to cease, and he soon converts alliances with the Cardinal’s right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell, a major politician, lawyer and doting father who endeavours to award the king’s yearning for an annulled  marriage to Katherine of Aragon. On the other hand, Cromwell is a ruthless individual who has a secret agenda to somewhat ruin the monarch’s immense power. Additionally, ‘Wolf Hall’ advocates a slight father-son relationship between Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell as we are welcomed to eyewitness a tender moment where Cromwell is worried about the Cardinal's health and well-being when King Henry VIII has banished him from working alongside him. Poulton’s narrative is supreme and the writing is vastly comical and emotive equally. Such a divine rendition of Mantel’s novelisation. The performances by the company of ‘Wolf Hall’ were sublime throughout the entire show. Ben Miles is spectacular as the slightly callous, Thomas Cromwell. One found that he portrayed a malicious attempt to make Anne Boleyn to appear increasingly pompous to such precision and characterisation. Paul Jesson is wonderful as the church’s representative, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. He created a gracious performance when he feels quite betrayed by the King, who has inevitably made him homeless, and he thinks he will never be as popular as he once was. Lucy Briers is affluent as the King's current wife, Katherine of Aragon. I particularly admired her determination to not be overlooked in the King's eyes, especially their daughter’s status in the Royal hierarchy. Once again Jeremy Herrin’s direction is brilliant as he has condensed the story of Thomas Cromwell's rise of status with such flair and élan. Christopher Oram’s set and costumes were unbelievably spellbinding and fully stylised the era with pleasurable realisation and creativity.  Nick Powell’s sound design here was predominantly curious and I found the soundscape when I entered the auditorium encapsulated a stimulating atmosphere.  Overall, I found the experience of ‘Wolf Hall’ to be an elegant to one. 

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