Anne Boleyn by Howard Brenton
Friday 12th – Saturday 20th July (not Sunday)
Director: Pauline Armour
Every year on May 19th flowers are delivered to the Tower of London, where Queen Anne Boleyn, was executed on that day in 1536. The flowers have been arriving for forty years and no-one knows who sends them. Today there is a fast-growing Anne Boleyn cult. She appeals to both adolescants and to ageing romantics. Her story is a heady mixture of intense love, death and betrayal combined with a sense of reckless fun and daring sexiness.
There have been many interpretations of Anne Boleyn with different historians and writers of popular culture presenting her as ‘the bright sexy girl manoeuvred by an ambitious family into the King’s bed’; ‘a brutal and effective politician’; ‘ a schemer and poseur’; ‘calculating, instinctive, almost feral – a very dangerous woman’.
However Howard Brenton in this portayal of Anne Boleyn reveals a whole other dimension. Anne was religious, she was a protestant, a reformer and an admirer of William Tyndale. Anne was in love with Henry but also with the most dangerous ideas of her day. She conspired to make England protestant for ever. Brenton states that he wrote this play to celebrate Anne’s life and her legacy as a great English woman who helped to change the course of our history.
Brenton’s ‘Anne Boleyn’ sold out at Shakespeare’s Globe two seasons on the run. I was one of the lucky ones to see it and was determined to bring it to BLT as soon as the performing rights became available. Although the play takes on grand ideas that have had serious consquences it is extremely funny and reveals the Tudor pack at their most snarling, scheming, ribald, pleasure-seeking and gaily entertaining. History lessons are not really supposed to be such fun but Brenton’s vision of the life and afterlife of Queen Anne Boleyn is a bawdy ,raucous romp packed with ripe, modern language that still manages to address some serious issues . It has drama, sex, intrigue, hilarity – in short – as much entertainment value as a Tudor execution!!
Anne Boleyn – Sophia Danes
King Henry V111 – Mike Savil
Thomas Cromwell – Stevie Hughes
Cardinal Wolsey – Robert Dilks
Lady Rochford – Alison Green
Anne’s women – Vanessa Marton, Emma Lamond, Jemma Long, Fran Sheldon, Timmy Wright
Simpkin – Andrew Newbon
Sloop – Martin Bunyan
William Tyndale – Matthew Platt
King James 1 – Paul Baker
Robert Cecil – Paul Ackroyd
George Villiers – Kyle Cluett
Parrot – Phil Cairns
Dean Lancelot Andrewes – Felix Catto
Doctor John Reynolds – Paul Green
Henry Barrow – Graham Bull
Country men and women/ courtiers/guards – Peter Yolland, Michael Baker, Nigel Borsberry, Luke Sheldon, Vanessa Marton, Emma Lamond, Jemma Long, Fran Sheldon,Timmy Wright, Oliver Barrass
Book early to avoid disappointment.