After selling out its RSC premiere at Stratford, acclaimed productions of Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies made their London transfer to the Aldwych Theatre in May. Both plays are running in repertory until September.
The double bill, adapted by dramatist Mike Poulton and directed by Jeremy Herrin, tell the compelling story of the political rise to power of Thomas Cromwell, in the court of Henry VIII. He was Britain’s original working class hero, according to the author.
The adaptions compress 1,246 pages of print into five and a half hours of stage time with the complex interactions of 70 characters, seven of whom are annoyingly called Thomas.
Hilary won the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall, and repeated the success with Bring Up The Bodies in 2012. They are the first two parts of Hilary’s projected trilogy of Henry’s fixer – the third, The Mirror and the Light is currently being written “at haste”, as you read this.
Ben Miles plays Cromwell, Lydia Leonard is Anne Boleyn, Nathaniel Parker as Henry VIII and Paul Jesson as Cardinal Wolsey.
Mark Lawson in The Guardian says: “English ecclesiastical reform was driven by the King’s soul as well as his penis… Henry’s succession needs gave an opening to Protestant plotters in his court.”