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Posts Tagged ‘Angela Davies’

This isn’t a particularly good Shakespeare play. It was his last, may have been written with John Fletcher and it’s really just a slice of history with some pageantry and a prophetic / sycophantic ending. It’s rarely performed and the Globe is a great place to see it.

The play covers the period from the last years of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon through to the birth of Elizabeth I soon after his next marriage to Anne Boleyn. No executions (you have to go to the National for those) but you do get a coronation and a christening! You also get a historically accurate game of real tennis (squash), the demise of a corrupt and manipulative cardinal (you don’t get that in 2010!) and a rather drawn out death scene during which one is sorely tempted to shout ‘get on with it’. Apart from the royals themselves, there are other’s we know from our history – Cardinal Wolseley, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer. It ends by telling you how good the newly christened Elizabeth is going be as queen – from the point in history when the play ends, it’s prophetic but from the point when it was written (she had already reigned) sycophantic.

Mark Rosenblatt’s production is very good, bringing out the best of the play. It plays the humour and pagentry well and there are terrific costumes (acres of silk, satin and taffeta and lots of ermine!) by designer Angela Davies, great music (Nigel Hess) and some fine performances. Henry is presented as a bit of a good guy (for a man whose main claim to fame is despatching wives in significant numbers) and Dominic Rowan plays him well, far from the fat king stereotype. Kate Duchene plays Katherine as a histrionic Spaniard complete with accented English. Miranda Raison (the lovely Jo from Spooks, almost unrecognisable as a long-haired brunette) is a very good Anne, though occasionally upstaged by Amanda Lawrence’s terrific lady-in-waiting (doubling up as an equally terrific fool). Ian McNeice is perfect as the baddie Wolsey. It  took a while to forget all of his turns as the Stratford East panto baddie before one could appreciate Michael Bertenshaw’s deliciously funny Lovell and Porter (and rather more serious Cardinal Campeius).

It might be a long way from being the best of Shakespeare, but it’s one of my most enjoyable visits to the Globe.

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