Theatre Review: Anne Boleyn at the Globe

A vibrant production charts the rise and fall of a queen.

The Word of God season at Shakespeare’s Globe continues with Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn, a huge hit for the Globe when it debuted in 2010.

Focussing not only on the rise and fall of the second wife of Henry VIII, the King’s divorce and the reformation of the Catholic Church, the play also depicts the reign of James I and his creation of the King James Bible, commissioned in order to reconcile the chasm caused by Henry which spilt the English Church.

Miranda Raison (from TV’s Spooks) plays Anne Boleyn (a famously small, brunette woman) and from the off she appears to be strange casting. The part is hugely demanding and the geography of the Globe cries out for a connection with the audience that Raison doesn’t completely achieve.

James Garnon however gives a master class in acting on an Elizabethan stage, with his electric portrayal of King James I. Full to bursting with uncontrollable twitches, spasms and paroxysms, Garnon’s monarch is an awe-inspiring performance and worthy of the ticket price alone.


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Brenton’s script is vibrant, punchy and accessible, and the cast deliver it with a fitting amount of pace, gusto and fervour. Well-worth a visit to Bankside.

* Showing at Shakespeare’s Globe in New Globe Walk, Bankside, until Sunday, August 21.

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