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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