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Bring Up The Bodies – The double bill part 2
Second part of the RSC dramatisation of Hilary Mantel‘s novels around the character of Thomas Cromwell (adaptation by Mike Poulton).
The hurricane is still far from subsiding; the 16th century’s wheels keep grinding on. On the surface, Henry VIII has so far succeeded in his struggles, the annulment of his first marriage, young Anne Boleyn as his new wife, the riches of the dissolved monasteries in his coffers, and in addition, the title as head of the Anglican Church.
On the inside, however, dissatisfaction is festering again.
Anne Boleyn gives birth to a girl, Elizabeth, and nobody thinks her capable of taking over the crown one day. Male heirs to the throne still fail to be born. An increasingly irritable Anne (particularly good when angry: Lydia Leonard) drives her increasingly frustrated husband into a new love for Jane Seymour (nicely innocent and docile: Leah Brotherhead). Anne Boleyn is in the way, a situation only Thomas Cromwell can resolve.
Cromwell (Ben Miles) now is, next to the king, the most powerful man in the country. Miles meticulously portrays the utmost focus, in which this politician, by manipulation, charm and threats, pursues open and covert targets in order to satisfy his king, strengthen his and his family’s position and implement his personal revenge.
Nathaniel Parker as Henry VIII lets the audience feel how the King’s self-confidence weakens, and how he transforms from a proud lover to a solace seeking heap of misery.
Katherine of Aragon’s history comes to its conclusion – she dies whilst in house arrest. Lucy Briers gives her character the dignity of a truly strong woman.
Life becomes dangerous for poet Thomas Wyatt (Jay Taylor), the King’s friend Henry Norris (John Ramm), and courtiers Weston (Piero Niel Mee), Smeaton (Joey Batey) and Brereton (Nicholas Shaw), as well as for Anne’s brother George Boleyn (Oscar Pearce). Their growing panic at being accused of adultery with Queen Anne builds up to an almost unbearable tension that only for Wyatt does not end on the executioner’s block .
Just as in Wolf Hall, Ben Miles’s presence, overwhelming in its stillness, hypnotises stage and auditorium. The danger of Cromwell’s role, not least for himself, at all times shimmers through his radical measures and private conversations. Breathtaking!
Putting Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies on stage with such pure and unassuming artistry deserves massive kudos to director Jeremy Herrin. A massive success for the RSC and their Artistic Director Gregory Doran.
Bring Up The Bodies will be shown in Stratford until 29 March 2014, and fingers crossed for a subsequent London run.
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