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Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies

by on 23 June 2019

Laugh Your Head Off !

Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies

by Mike Poulton, adapted from the novels of Hilary Mantel

Teddington Theatre Club at the Hampton Hill Theatre until 28th June

A review by Viola Selby

Who fancies a good gossip about so called friends, adultery, incest, divorce and beheading? Well then Sally Halsey’s production of Mike Poulton’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies is just up your alley! This six-hour long production, including intervals, but not dinner breaks, is a royally rumbustious affair that will have you both laughing your head off (pun intended) whilst sitting on the edge of your seat. Taken along by Sally Halsey’s great direction, the audience is transported back to various famous locations of Tudor England by Junis Olmscheid’s exquisite and highly detailed set designs, including hidden gems like the Tudor Rose on one of the corridor walls, clever lighting and sound by Gary Stevenson and Harry Jacobs and costumes that would make a queen green with envy, creatively crafted by the wardrobe team.

Wolf Card Crom 1

Each performance is strong and carefully planned out, with all actors having a clear understanding of their character and motives. For example, Dave O’Roarty plays Cardinal Wolsey, not just as a greedy right hand of the king, but as a man whose beliefs and desires are often in conflict with his need to survive and to serve his king. Whilst Tom Wright’s Thomas More is not some gentle religious man as often More is made out to be, but an annoying pious creep.

Wolf Cromwell 2But it is Dave Brickwood, who is the star of the show as Thomas Cromwell, managing to portray a man with many layers, in an intense yet seemingly effortless performance. Instead of portraying him as a man completely devoted to Wolsey, as Mantel would have us believe, or the Tudor Alistair Campbell with an axe, as David Starkey argues, Brickwood has the audience’s mind in a real muddle as they try to work out Cromwell’s true intention. As Cromwell says, “I have never known what is in your heart. Do not presume to know what is in mine.” And this is something that in this play we can never do!

Unlike many other plays adapted from books, this is not a play about which the audience needs to have read and rememberedWolf Seymour 1 Mantel’s books word for word, nor do you feel the need to remember everything from your GCSE History lessons. It holds well on its own. However a light understanding of the characters and places would help, as there are so many plot twists and place names it is almost like watching a Game of Thrones episode! It would also help in understanding the comedy behind lines such as when Jane Seymour, brilliantly played by Hannah Lobley, introduces herself as, “Oh, I’m nobody. I’m only Jane Seymour.”

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A gripping and hilarious royal romp filled with backstabbing, plotting and intrigue, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies is a six-hour production that will have you both sitting on the edge of your thrones and laughing your breeches off!

Viola Selby
June 2019

Photography by Joe Stockwell

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