"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
the King wears his own clothes.
the others, Presbyterians, Levellers, Counsellors and the two women,
are all dressed somewhere in the middle of the Twentieth Century. Ashley Martin-Davis's
grim traverse set suggests a corridor of power, with overflowing
filing cabinets, in Whitehall, maybe, or Westminster, scenes of the
military coup of 1649.
Brenton's earlier success, Anne Boleyn, 55 Days dissects a turning point in
history, and takes us back to a world where religion was central to
the lives of rulers and commoners alike.
the mufti and the intimate setting make these people seem very real,
their predicaments very immediate. Mr Speaker [John Mackay], the
"saints" [Cromwell's army, encamped round braziers in Hyde
Park], Freeborn John Lilburne [Gerald Kyd] and the rest.
action is swift, brutal in Howard Davies's gripping production. Allegiances, ambitions are far from fixed –
"everybody twists about" – stability is a dear, distant
dream. A bell tolls for Evensong in the chapel at Carisbrooke,
Cromwell is at his ablutions above a Knottingley tavern. And most
chillingly effective of all, the noisy meetings and the attempt at a
trial. A very real sense that decisions are made, policies forged, on
the hoof. "We
are not just trying a tyrant, we are inventing a country, "
lawyers that the Parliamentarians enlist are unsure, torn between
statute and revolutionary zeal. [Excellent performances from Tom
Vaughan-Lawler and James Wallace, who also plays Richmond in the
is a strong, determined but ultimately reasonable Douglas Henshall.
Mark Gatiss his proud, remote, arrogant monarch. A glass of wine
symbolises a meeting between them [which happens, like Tyndale's
tryst with Boleyn, only in the dramatist's imagination]. Charles's
rejection of his advances suddenly triggers an angry decision, the
trial and the execution.
are echoes of the earlier play in the humour, the names [Thomas, Lady
Anne, Cromwell] and in Brenton's unique gift for heightened yet
realistic historical dialogue. He captures the turbulence of the
times, and makes complex political, social and religious ideas not
only accessible but real and relevant.