REVIEW: Anne Boleyn, Westovian Theatre, South Shields, Until May 23

The Westovian Theatre Society is staging Anne Boleyn. From left, Danielle Miller as Lady Rochford, Sarah Boulter as  Anne Boleyn, Miriam Beber as Lady Celia and Jenn Boyack as Jane Seymour.
The Westovian Theatre Society is staging Anne Boleyn. From left, Danielle Miller as Lady Rochford, Sarah Boulter as Anne Boleyn, Miriam Beber as Lady Celia and Jenn Boyack as Jane Seymour.

The Westovians’ latest offering is this drama of the life and legacy of Henry VIII’s notorious second wife, who helped change the course of a nation’s history.

It is a very modern play, commissioned for the Globe Theatre in 2010, and this production gives a strong nod to that original in the wonderful set and costume design, as well as in the huge ensemble of actors assembled to tell the story.

From left, Leon McGuinness as Sloop, Gary Manson as Cardinal Wolsey, Ron Markwick as Thomas Cromwell and David Gibson as Simpkin.

From left, Leon McGuinness as Sloop, Gary Manson as Cardinal Wolsey, Ron Markwick as Thomas Cromwell and David Gibson as Simpkin.

Anne is a fascinating and complex character, and in this play she is shown in quite a different light to that in which she is traditionally seen.

Sarah Boulter is outstanding as Anne Boleyn. She portrays an expert command of the language and of the stage, and, in a physically and mentally demanding role, never lets the pace drop.

She expertly walks the fine line of demure lady of the court who is deeply in love with Henry, and the more manipulative, calculating and politicised strong woman, not afraid to stand her ground in a man’s world.

As her Henry VIII, Andrew Dawson is quite a revelation. Perhaps not an obvious casting choice, Dawson obviously doesn’t let this phase him at all, and he embodies the young, virile, powerful and, in some scenes, manipulated King with a relaxed and confident ease.

This is a sweeping and ambitious play, and the Westovians are to be congratulated in presenting it.

The action is fast-moving, as the political intrigue within Henry’s court ensues.

Ron Markwick plays the interesting Thomas Cromwell, Gary Manson’s Cardinal Wolsey is delightfully smarmy, and Anne’s ladies-in-waiting – Danielle Miller, Miriam Beber, and Jennifer Boyack – are very watchable, ably assisting in the unfolding drama whilst nicely underplaying their comic moments.

It’s also a real pleasure to see past and current members of the Westovian Junior section taking parts in this production. They all play their roles very well – particularly Peter Dawson, who relishes his role as King James I and commits to it completely, throwing everything into it.

This is a sweeping and ambitious play, and the Westovians are to be congratulated in presenting it.

It’s a very good production indeed, and well worth catching if you can. If you don’t, you’d be off your head.

Anne Boleyn runs at the Westovian Theatre until Saturday, May 23. Go to the Westovians website for ticket information.