Cruel Hearts and Coronets

Terry Wills reports on the New Alex production of Anne Boleyn.

Anne BoleynHere comes an admission…

As someone who anticipates and enjoys a pleasant night out at the theatre (especially when the production is a good old fashioned musical) it was with a certain amount of curiosity that I espied the production of Anne Boleyn at the New Alexandra Theatre. Knowing little or nothing relating to the history of English royalty apart that at times we’ve had number of controversial kings and queens, this Globe Production performed by the English Touring Company had to be termed ‘different.’

I’ll give you a brief synopsis, and this in itself is confusing.

The newly crowned James I, rummaging through an old chest, discovers the very controversial legacy of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s notorious second wife -a copy of the bible, translated into English. So far so good, until time jumps back 70 years, to when the witty and very flirtatious Anne was not only in love with Henry, but with the most dangerous idea of her day. Conspiring with the exiled William Tyndale, she plots to make England a Protestant country forever. Nasty Catholics out.

Time moves backwards and forwards, and again this is confusing, so all one can do is sit back and enjoy the splendid characterisations, and witty dialogue, of the rival protagonists. James Garnon as King James I and Jo Herbert as Anne give splendid characterisations ,as indeed do all the leading characters. One unusual and appreciated aspect of the show comes even before the story unravels.

No curtain up – there’s a plain open stage without any trimmings and some members of the cast, in full costume, walking off stage to chat with the audience.

It was certainly different, and chatting to one silkily dressed lady I asked, tongue in cheek, whether it would be different from next week’s Alex production of Spamalot (!). She replied, “I haven’t seen that yet but I do hope to eventually get the chance. Everyone says it’s hilarious.”

Yes, Anne Boleyn is different. But those comprising a virtually full stalls audience certainly found it to their taste judging by the applause although some of the language was, to put it mildly, crude in the extreme.