By Azra Wilkinson
All credit to the cast of this engaging play for giving such a committed performance despite a change of location and the unseasonable weather. The lack of amplified sound on the new stage meant that those at the back of the audience did lose some of the dialogue to the occasional duck call and overhead aircraft, but the perseverance of the actors and the compelling script meant this became less of an issue as the play progressed.
The playwright, Ann Jocelyn Henning, is to be commended for taking such a complex and layered moment in history and presenting it in such an accessible and engrossing way. All the performances were engaging, but that by Kitty Whitelaw, as Lady Jane Rochford, was particularly memorable.
The songs of the balladeer (Robert Madeley) – and the subsequent audience participation – added light relief and social context, in contrast to the solemnity on stage, but the ultimate surprise awaited us in the final act. What may be the true reason behind the fate of Anne Boleyn, her brother George and the others beheaded at the behest of the king, comes as a shock, and provides reason to Lady Jane’s actions. The actor’s powerful and moving delivery of her final speech left the audience entranced.
Henning must be praised for the painstaking research – which has been verified by Tudor historians – that she has put into revealing this previously unknown twist in the Boleyn story. To attempt to change the narrative of such an already documented era is a bold choice – and one that works very well.