Monday, April 6, 2015

Wolf Hall, Parts One & Two ***

There is much to admire about this Royal Shakespeare Company’s production now at the Winter Garden Theatre. First off, Mike Poulton’s page-to-stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s two novels about Thomas Cromwell (a third is in progress) streamlines the plot without seriously diminishing the author’s voice. Secondly, the production is gorgeous with an elegantly simple set and attractive costumes by Christopher Oram. Thirdly, the 23-member cast, led by Ben Miles as Cromwell, is uniformly strong. Finally, director Jeremy Herrin stages the play with grace and fluidity. Why then did I not find the experience more gratifying? The multitude of characters and the doubling of roles occasionally confused me about who was who, even though I had read the first book. Seeing the two plays together on one day strained my powers of concentration as the hour grew late. Maybe I have just been overexposed to works about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. In any case, the material rarely engaged me at the emotional level. When it was over, I felt I had seen an intelligent, but rather chilly historical pageant. Running time, Part I: two hours 45 minutes; Part II: two hours 50 minutes.

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