THE LION IN WINTER
Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court
Goldman's 1966 historical soap takes liberties with history, but makes the people behind the pageantry both human and believable.
Often, they seem to have one eye on posterity – “this is 1183, we are barbarians,” Eleanor reminds us. In this “world in small” nothing is what it seems, no-one says what they mean. With their banter and their bickering, this royal pair could be Beatrice and Benedict, Elyot and Amanda, George and Martha.
They were brilliantly played in this production by CTW veterans Dave Hawkes and Christine Thomson. Hawks played Henry with a light touch which emphasised his moments of temper, the Master Bastard plotting his succession, channelling both Lear and Medea. And as his “widow”, Thomson movingly suggested the complex character of this clever woman. The moment when she was offered freedom, her meeting with Richard [an impressively intense James Christie] and the final skirmish in the dungeon were amongst many powerful scenes.
I liked Harry Sabbarton's charming, slightly giggly Phillip of France, and Ian Willingham's middle son. The pimply runt who was to become King John was Jake Reeve, and gentle Alais was given some emotional depth by Roxanne Carney.
The set was impressive – sconces, heavy brocade, an imposing door. And though there was a deal of bustling between scenes, the pace was good throughout, with sympathetic sound and lighting. The director was Mike Nower, assisted by Tom Strudwick.
production photograph by James Sabberton