Magazine article The Spectator

Capital Punishment

Magazine article The Spectator

Capital Punishment

Article excerpt

Fallen in Love Tower of London, 26, 31 May, 1, 8, 9, 13 to 16 June Pastoral Soho, until 8 June A marvellous novelty at the Tower of London. The Banqueting Suite of the New Armouries has been converted into a popup theatre and the Tower authorities have welcomed a new play following the rise and fall (into two pieces) of Anne Boleyn.

Joanna Carrick, who directs her own script, has chosen a tricky format. Two characters, Anne and her brother George, tell the story of Anne's fatal marriage to Henry VIII. Even Aeschylus found this ancient format rather constricting and introduced a third character. Perhaps Carrick knows better. Anne and George are evidently attracted to each other and they romp around a four-poster bed exchanging gossip in fits of giggles. At first the characterisation is a little thin. Then it gets thinner.

George (Scott Ellis) is a bumptious, greedy posh boy, who, if he lived today, would be a Mayfair hedge funder with an Aston Martin, two mistresses and herpes. Anne (Emma Connell) is stunningly beautiful but difficult to warm to. She's a heartless, truculent minx determined to snare the king in order to stoke her vanity, ambition and megalomania. If this is an accurate portrait, it's a wonder Henry didn't lop her bonce off earlier. There's not a trace of grandeur, mystery or depth to these callous schemers. And the actors have been encouraged to shriek their lines at road-drill volume even though the spectators are close enough to tap them politely on the arm and ask them to 'bring it down a bit'. It's a huge relief when both are executed.

The play ends with a sentimental glimpse of two ghosts in heaven dancing together in a chaste clinch. Overhead, meanwhile, an exploding lampshade showers the twirling figures with confetti made out of choppedup rejection letters from West End backers.

Hats off to the Tower. Heads off for the producers.

Soho Theatre's biennial writing prize, the Verity Bargate (or 'Veritable Garbage' as it's known to detractors), was awarded in 2011 to Thomas Eccleshare. His winning play, Pastoral, offers a dystopian vision of the future in which Britain is being invaded by swarms of aggressive trees. Total dendromania ensues. Motorways erupt under pressure from fast-growing oaks. Shopping malls collapse as young saplings thrust upward through the foundations. Cherry trees wrap themselves around skyscrapers and bring them crashing to the ground. A dotty grandmother, and her assorted family, take shelter in the ruins of a blighted suburb. …

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