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Folk and Blues
A Man for All Seasons
by Robert Bolt
The Mitre Theatre, Croydon
April 2017
Directed by Peter Bramwell

 

Please CLICK HERE to download a .pdf of the programme

Marcus Ascott's photos can be viewed HERE

 

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

Reviewed from The Croydon Advertiser

by Theo Spring  (Not published)

 

The set design by Paul Bowles with its mullioned coloured windows, secret staircases and wonderful iron entry gates reeked of the Tudor period and transformed itself without fuss into the many places where the slow downfall of Sir Thomas More were enacted. Costumes by Di Jones and Anna Warnock added more to the historical atmosphere, as did the carefully chosen incidental music.


The Common Man is the mostly cheerful narrator of this well-known tale. Safe in the capable acting hands of Paul Grace as More’s cheeky servant Matthew, disgruntled boatman and a variety of other characters, he moved seamlessly between the comic, the cheating and the macabre.


Learned, pious and true to his strong beliefs, Sir Thomas More was ever careful of his actions and confidantes as he persisted in his decision not to sign the Oath of Supremacy. Warwick Jones’ characterisation brought Sir Thomas to believably vivid life as he dealt with the twists and turns of the official and family demands upon him. Unable to understand More’s determination to hold fast to his principles, Morven Rae made Lady Alice More a loving, down to earth wife, unwilling to accept her husband’s high ethics.  More’s educated daughter Lady Margaret, gently played by Jerri-Lee Goater, understood his decision but pleaded with him too.


The intrigue and machinations of the Tudor court were excellently captured by Fraser Macdonald as the resplendent Cardinal Wolsey and Ian Brown schemed, plotted and conspired as the man who, it seemed, would stop at nothing to do his monarch’s bidding – Thomas Cromwell. The playwright - Robert Bolt’s conception of Cromwell’s artificial obsequiousness was strongly captured here and is particularly commendable as Brown is most often seen in comic roles. From lowly beginnings, it was Paul Cohen who evolved the rise and rise of Master Richard Rich, whose loyalty was so easily bought by Cromwell, managing Rich’s early days of poverty well but needing to show a little more angst when betraying Sir Thomas at his trial. As the Duke of Norfolk, Neil O’Gorman clearly revealed his concern at the way circumstances forced him to betray his friend Sir Thomas, with the scene by the river as they ‘unfriended’ themselves being particularly poignant.


The hint of a Spanish accent from both Signor Chapuys and his attendant were well delivered by Charles Marriott and Christopher Backway and Peter Bramwell introduced a vacillating Henry VIII to More’s garden in Chelsea, extravagantly dressed.


Will Roper is an addition to More’s household as his son-in-law, with Owen Moore blowing hot and cold as Roper’s allegiances changed with the seasons. Underneath these concerning fluctuations, however, his love for Lady Margaret did shine through.

 
Roisin Potter made much of her brief appearance as the woman who tried to bribe Sir Thomas with silver cup and Andy Holton as Thomas Cranmer added his weight to More’s death sentence in court.


The whole production evoked the dilemma of those in high office in the Tudor court, telling the story with clarity and emotion. Very well rehearsed and with each actor conversant with the characterisation of their role, the time for this quite long production simply flew by and director Peter Bramwell must be congratulated not only for his work but for finding such a stellar cast.