Bring Up the Bodies – RSC

18 January 201

Being ferociously impressed by Wolf Hall made me both excited and slightly anxious about returning to the home of Shakespeare and seeing Bring Up the Bodies last Saturday evening. I mean I was almost heaving with expectation. My only niggly fear was …will they be able to pull off another five star performance. By 7.45pm, I comfortably concluded – YES!

These actors not only convince and hold you close to the action; they also keep up the energy and pull off a peerless show. And although it was a tough race in regards to ‘who’s the best actor… who’s pulled off the best performance’, Mr Ben Miles (playing Thomas Cromwell) comes out my clear winner. He’s not only terrifically talented – he never stops – for he’s pretty much on stage throughout the whole performance, which when one does their sums, indicates that he was on stage for close to six hours on Saturday alone, with barely a break. Impressive.

Ahh, before I leave off one of my favourite pastimes – fawning over stage actors – I’d like to do a brief call-out to Mr Nathaniel Parker (Henry VIII), for he expertly delivers a Henry who’s not only tough, sometimes brutal and super sporty, but also occasionally innocent and unsure.  Something I’d never considered King Henry would have been.

So, the production as I understand follows the book quite closely (that same book that sits patiently waiting for me to lose myself in, post finishing with its sister). And the play leads perfectly on from where Wolf Hall left off.

The time-scale is shorter, covering the seven month period leading up to (and including) the head taking of Anne Boleyn and Henry’s move to wife number three please. The bodies pile up and you the audience start to think, there’s no stopping this drive to get what one wants. No one is safe, for one day you might be assisting with securing a favourable deal for the King and the next find yourself heading for temporary residence in the Tower, prior to your time for head rolling.  Scaring but riveting.

Additionally, you’re introduced to a household where being less than demure is the norm until your husband finds out then there’s hell to pay and your male friends really will. And a tremendous scene when Cromwell, Henry and Rafe Sadler are preparing the death warrants – it’s disturbing.

And I shan’t leave until I scream the merits/pleasures of the costumes – they are so, so, so incredible and worthy of their own Victoria & Albert exhibition.

Lastly, you couldn’t hold me back when it came to the audience apprehension time, I burst to stand and held my hands high and applauded. Theatre doesn’t get any better!

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Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s

Some things in life are just made perfect, like this precious gold ensemble currently on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Image

(Imaged sourced http://www.seenheardknown.com)

Yes, Wednesday of this week was delightful, for I got to see this very piece along with approximately 85 others, being showcased in the capital until 16 February.

Actually delightful isn’t the right word, remarkable feels better, for there’s something for everyone.

Perhaps your thing’s denim – embellished denim; or you have a preference for loud chunky knitwear; even partial to wearing a slogan T-shirt. The range and diversity in the show is squeally good.

So, the display is over two floors and I was having an entertaining time downstairs, admiring the ladies evening wear with dangerously low cut back sections, singing along with ‘Your My Obsession’ and thinking to myself – ‘Well this is good and thankfully Joseph designs are different these days’, when I reached and climbed the stairs – and came face to face with my eleven to fifteen year old idea of HEAVEN.

Yes truly, I was eleven in 1983 and thought Culture Club were the most on-trend, fantastically gifted group, and though Adam Ant was more my sister’s fancy, the pirate outfits of that era can’t be challenged, rather should be championed…and some of those treasures were two feet in front my glazed over eyes.

Added to the spectacle – there were leather-studded Terence Trent Derby look outfits standing just metres from ‘High Camp’ and ‘New Romantic’ examples of sensational wearable design.

And added to the perfectness of it all, an area dedicated to film and photographs shot in the most popular nightclubs of the time; at catwalk shows and parties.

Sadly, I had to leave my eleven to fifteen year old idea of Heaven and never lived (or would have been admitted to a nightclub) in London during the high voltage make-up days of the 1980s.

Happily however, I’m inspired to make some exciting changes with regards to my wardrobe choices. I can see that tame is not where I need to be and a little adventurousness in fashion can be a great thing.

WOLF HALL

The RSC
Stratford-Upon-Avon

It started with a pre show talk with the Director and climaxed with Henry VIII’s indecision – that was my yesterday.

I wish I could state that this was spontaneous or just another day in the exceedingly joyful life of a middle-aged catfish however that would be untrue, for what occurred less than 24 hours ago, was planned, purchased and eagerly anticipated for eleven months.

What I didn’t plan for though was having a super smiley Hilary Mantel sit just to my left, two rows back. Mastercard couldn’t have even managed that one. Yes – it took immense inner strength not to pounce and gush at her – instead I contented myself with the occasional turn of head (gee, she’s still there) and took to actor spotting and sucking in the excitement vibe pre-performance.

Back to the Director for a moment though – Jeremy Herrin is one to keep an eye on. For not only in the flesh is he an interesting, amusing, attractive (did I say that) and very personable fellow, but also in terms of his vision and ability to direct – gifted. Put simply, he has managed to bring to the stage two Booker prize winning novels, superbly produced (OK, I only saw one – however luckily am seeing the next in 13 days), ‘made them accessible’ (my son’s words, not mine) and at the same time, happened to make television watching less appealing.

To the show: Attempting a little prior preparation and planning preceding our day out – yes I said attempting – I’d only managed to read 111 pages of Wolf Hall, so though I’m happily currently enjoying it, I had to depend on the actors, crew and musicians to do their bit. And YES they did

The bare set works, the casting is spot-on and the costumes are exquisite. Did I say the costumes are exquisite? The fabrics, the pleats, the jewels, the shoes, the furs, the doublets, the hats, the hosiery – the RSC wardrobe department have delivered the most divine clothing eye candy in Tudor play history.

Ohh…you wish to know what happens. Well, Thomas Cromwell (played by Ben Miles) is the chap you follow throughout the drama.  He’s pretty much everyone’s go to man, the one you head to if you have a couple of issues that need sorting. Like when Cardinal Wolsey needs some assistance with the Monks up North; or when Henry VIII requires a little assistance with divorcing his first wife and betrothing his next. Thomas Cromwell will fix it – for you, you and you.

The play covers seven years of Henry VIII’s reign – approx. twenty years into his marriage to Catherine of Aragon – a period that most of us would be aware of; perhaps enjoyed learning about; and a time of colossal change in terms of the Church and its authority within this country. And it is the latter that comes across so incredibly well. I guess I’d never really questioned that by taking power away from the Church in Rome and handing greater powers to the King could be risky, however this plays demonstrates it supremely. It also encouraged me to draw some interesting comparisons between Anne Boleyn and Veruca Salt, where I feel that Miss Salt comes out the sweeter.

Golly, I forgot to mention the dancing. The performance is sprinkled with a few perfectly incorporated dances which are further enhanced by the thrust stage. The flirtation between key characters is delicious to spy.

Try and get a ticket – it’s on until 29 March 2014