ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
by Tim Newns
Shakespeare's play misses out a considerable amount of the life of Henry VIII concentrating on only a few key events based around the King's divorce from Katherine of Aragon and her exile to Kimbolton Castle, the downfall and death of Cardinal Wolsey and the wooing and marriage of Anne Boleyn, with the play ending in the birth and christening of the future Queen Elizabeth I. The problem one may have with the play is that it is more an amalgamation of events linked together with traditional Shakespeare theatrical tools, such as the time passing porter scenes also seen in Macbeth, than any deep rooted tragedy or character analysis. Unlike Macbeth we are not treated to much insight into the psychological journey of the play's leading characters except perhaps the torturous downfall and excommunication of Queen Katherine.
There are some fine performances in the cast with Dominic Rowan presenting us with a rather humane and sympathetic Henry. With rich black hair, soft tones and some eloquent speeches about his own guilt towards his behaviour to Katherine we see a Henry that challenges our preconceptions. Kate Duchêne plays an impressive Katherine brazenly showing the torment and distress this woman goes through at the end of her life. At times Duchêne is incredibly captivating yet often a little screechy which can make it hard to focus on what is some of Shakespeare's finest verse. Other noteworthy performances include a rather witty performance from Sam Cox as the Lord Chamberlain and a brief but hilarious Amanda Lawrence as Anne Boleyn's Welsh maid. Ian McNeice, however, largely steals the show as the Cardinal. Forever sweeping across the stage like an overgrown slug, McNeice fills the role with an unsettling presence and deep gravity.
With moments of great direction, Rosenblatt has certainly done his utmost best on a difficult play. If history is your forte and the weather is nice then there is nothing more I could recommend for a nice evening with the bard.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.