Sunday, September 30, 2012


CTW at the Old Court

Chelmsford Theatre Workshop is presenting the East Anglian amateur premiere of Howard Brenton's intriguing account of Henry VIII, his second wife, King James I and his bible.

Stuart Adkins reviewed it on opening night for NODA - his piece is here.

Jim Hutchon saw it for the Chelmsford Weekly News:
Director Christine Davidson has a history of debuting major productions here in East Anglia, and Anne Boleyn is no exception. Straight from its celebrated production at Shakespeare’s Globe, Howard Brenton’s masterly play thrilled audiences at the Old Court, with near Shakespearian language, sumptuous costumes and faultless performances.

This is no straight boring narrative of the ups and downs of the Tudor years though. The author plucks key incidents from a time line that covers the courtship and early marriage of Henry and Anne, but leapfrogs the generations to James I's fascination with the woman. He turns these incidents into telling vignettes of the forces that shaped the changing religious landscape of England.

Gillie Marshall as Anne, trod a highly skilful line between innocent pawn and ambitious manipulator, while Geoff Browne as Henry did a fine authoritative line as a bully with a heart. Simon Thomas as Wolsey and Chris Piper as Cromwell never failed to send shivers down my spine as they squirmed their way through dangerous changing allegiances.

I think my favourite was Peter Jeary as James, with a strangled Scots tongue, great scholarship and impish sense of humour that brought a superb sense of perspective to the whole play.

I can’t remember when I enjoyed myself more at the theatre. And, although it's playing to fullish houses, if you can get a ticket for this week’s performances, 3rd-6th October, I recommend you try. Box Office 01245 606505.

Laura Bennett was there on the same night - her thoughts are here.

production photograph: James Sabbarton

1 comment:

Mary Redman said...

In Christine Davidson's lethargic version of Howard Brenton's sparkling Globe original, which I saw on its opening night, cast members came and went on stage, many playing themselves but dressed up to the nines if they were the nobs - the plebs had a sort of sackcloth.

Geoff Browne's Henry shouted a lot very slowly and ponderously, with a Michael Winner delivery. Hardly an irresistible lover.
Yet there was some powerful life in Gillie Marshall's bright Anne and Kate Millner's strong Lady Rochford, who really knew what play they were in. Mark Tree as the cleric Reynolds especially caught the eye with his stillness.
That old hammage expert scene stealer Pete Jeary (even if we couldn't distinguish all his words we at least knew what he was on about) was in fine comic form as the droll James VI and I of England. Capering about the stage and having a high old, dryly-witted Scottish time.

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