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Review: Anne Boleyn, Theatre Royal Bath
Anne Boleyn, the much-acclaimed touring production from Shakespeare’s Globe, is a beautifully put together play and well worth the hype.
As much a study of early feminism and religious history as it is a comedy-drama, Howard Brenton’s witty quips start from the very first minute, as Anne herself holds her severed head aloft to the galleries.
The delightful production is jam-packed with bold, boorish characters, led by a twitching, camp James Garnon as the cross-dressing King James I.
Garnon, haunted by the ghost of Anne after finding her Bible, is the guide for the evening.
Anne, played by Jo Herbert, is a far cry from the witch of the history books, but a confident, smart, fight-for-your-rights type. The play leaves you in no doubt of her part in the rise of Protestant England in the late 16th century.
And her husband, Henry VIII, is similarly distant from his common portrayal as a fat, bearded, brutal ruler. Here David Sturzaker shows a handsome, hopeless romantic.
There is strong support, too, from Julius D’Silva as the scheming, brash Thomas Cromwell, Colin Hurley as the crest-fallen Cardinal Wolsey, and John Cummins as the slippery servants Simpkin and Parrot.
The casting is magnificent and the set is perfectly simple, the music soft and delicate.
It lacks the tragic climax of a typical Shakespearean-style plot but as a serious, witty trail through an intriguing period of history, it delivers deliciously.