Saturday 2 August 2014

Wolf Hall / Bring Up The Bodies, RSC at Aldwych Theatre

Hilary Mantel is fast becoming a national treasure. She's won the Booker Prize twice (the only woman ever to do so), and recently had her portrait hung in the British Library. For the bookworms amongst you, she is probably best known for her novels, which tell the stories of King Henry VIII and his wives, from Thomas Cromwell's point of view. Although fictitious, Mantel weaves the facts into her intriguing plots, leaving you wondering "Hmm, I wonder..."!

The Aldwych Theatre is playing productions of Mantel's first two Cromwell novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies (the last of the trilogy is currently being written). On Saturdays they are played back to back in a matinee and evening performance - with enough time in between to pop out for a bite to eat and a natter about what might be coming next.

The cast stays the same for both performances, lead by the fantastic Ben Miles (you'll know his face, probably from Coupling). The dialogue was fast, snappy and surprisingly humorous, making it easy for a modern ear to follow; it's hands down my favourite historical era anyway, but it can be a shame with any period production when you feel the script needs translating. The set was simple but effective. A roaring fire in the corner is enough to evoke a Tudor palace, or a spot of drizzle to symbolise a stormy sail up the Thames. Hats off (excuse the pun) to the costume department as well, who had royalty dripping in jewels and silks. 

So if you're a fan of the novels, the era or even just good theatre, get yourself to the Aldwych. The run has been extended through to September, and you can either see the double performances on a Wednesday or Saturday, or watch them on consecutive nights (Wolf Hall, Monday and Thursday; Bring Up The Bodies, Tuesday and Friday).

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