Posts Tagged ‘Miranda Raison’

Anne Boleyn, Globe Theatre, London, July 2010

25 July, 2010

This play has a wonderful role for the eponymous heroine, and Miranda Raison portrayed her superbly as an attractive, sexy, and determined young woman, more than a match for everyone at court except Thomas Cromwell. He — the man who engineered her downfall — was played here by John Dougall as sure-footed and ruthless, ready to abuse his power as he saw fit.

Miranda Raison as Anne Boleyn, photo by Manuel Harlan

The story is that he destroys Anne before she can warn the king about his maladministration of funds from the dissolution of the monasteries. But hadn’t the king tired of her? Didn’t he find Jane Seymour an attractive alternative to a wife who failed to produce a son? If so this play showed no attraction of the king towards Jane Seymour. She appeared only to be a tool of Cromwell, put in at the last minute, and the king’s affections for Anne never seemed to diminish. Yes, it may well be true that had Anne produced a son her position would have been impregnable, and yes this play did show that the birth of a deformed baby was an important factor, but it seemed as if the king’s role was subservient to that of Cromwell, which was odd. Did Anne really meet William Tyndale, during a journey he made secretly to England? In this play she met him twice, but the second meeting was unconvincing. Tyndale’s acolytes were very rude to her, yet she kept pleading with them. Surely a woman as shrewd as Anne, brought up with the intrigues of the French court, would have had little patience with deliberate insults, and backed out of an impossible situation.

Act I built up a steady momentum, and I liked Anne’s announcement of a fifteen minute intermission as she scuttled off to the bedroom with the king, but Act II suddenly transported us nearly seventy years into the future. All at once we were faced with James VI of Scotland, successor to Anne’s daughter Queen Elizabeth. And then the play switched unpredictably between past and future. History tells us that Anne was beheaded at the Tower of London, and some say that her ghost walks there still. Perhaps it does, but did James I of England see it, as he did in this play by Howard Brenton, directed by John Dove? At one level we seemed to be at a history lesson, but with so many laughs for the audience I could no longer to take it seriously.

James Garnon played a wittily serious James VI — he was after all a highly educated man whose intellect was often underrated — and Anthony Howell portrayed a virile and attractive Henry VIII. In the recent Globe production of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey showed immense gravitas, before having the ground cut from under him by Anne Boleyn, but here Colin Hurley played him as an irascible weakling. Perhaps that was the intention, but the contrast between the two plays was ill judged, unless we are supposed to take them as fictions bearing little resemblance to history. I very much liked Sam Cox as Dean Lancelot Andrewes, and Peter Hamilton Dyer as William Tyndale, and I loved the costumes by Hilary Lewis. Anne’s dresses were glorious, and Miranda Raison’s smouldering sex appeal and assertive shrewdness in that role was by far the most vital thing about this play.

Henry VIII, Globe Theatre, London, May 2010

17 May, 2010

This is one of Shakespeare’s last works, written in collaboration with John Fletcher, who later became his successor as chief playwright to the King’s Men. It was originally known under the title All is True, rather than Henry VIII, perhaps because the King does not have the main role, appearing in only nine of the seventeen scenes.  The  principal role is for Cardinal Wolsey, who has some memorable lines, particularly during his final speech, “Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my King, He would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies”.

Dominic Rowan as Henry VIII, photo by John Tramper

The play deals partly with the national crisis of the Reformation, starting with events following a ceremonial treaty with France engineered by Wolsey, to the gradual dismissal and divorce of Queen Katherine, the advent of Anne Boleyn, the downfall of Wolsey, the attempted plot against Archbishop Cranmer, and his subsequent christening of Anne’s daughter Elizabeth — the queen who would later become a patron of Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre. Cranmer gives a speech predicting a glorious reign for her, and the audience at the time would remember Elizabeth’s funeral, and have known very well that Cranmer was burned as one of the three Oxford martyrs under her predecessor Queen Mary.

In the meantime this play contains plenty of scheming, including interesting scenes between Wolsey and Katherine of Aragon. She distrusts him, though he makes every effort to persuade her he is sympathetic to her cause, “Why should we, good lady, upon what cause, wrong you? … The way of our profession is against it. We are to cure such sorrows, not to sow ’em”. When news of Wolsey’s death reaches her she forgives him, and then dies herself, blessed with a vision of peace.

Miranda Raison as Anne Bullen (Boleyn), photo by John Tramper

This production by Mark Rosenblatt, with designs by Angela Davies, clothes the players in magnificent Tudor costumes, and allows the audience to see the characters before and after they meet the king. This is cleverly done by having them come out of one door, in through another and out again, or something like that — it works very well. The costumes are truly beautiful and the occasional use of puppets is brilliant. Ian McNeice is a very strong Wolsey, with excellent stage presence, Kate Duchêne is entirely convincing as Queen Katherine, and Sam Cox is very striking as the Lord Chamberlain, and as First Citizen. Henry is portrayed as a lively, handsome man, well played by Dominic Rowan, and the relatively small part of Anne Bullen (Boleyn) is very attractively played by Miranda Raison, who will appear again as the eponymous heroine in Howard Brenton’s new play Anne Boleyn, later in the Globe’s season.

Anne Boleyn starts on July 24, and both it and Henry VIII continue until August 21— for more details click here.