Religion. Politics. Love. Howard Brenton brings to life a spirited and fiery Anne Boleyn embroiled in all three. Navigating the dangers and dalliances of the English court, Anne draws the attention of the King and is plunged into a precarious world where alliances are temporary, favour easily retracted, and eyes everywhere, even in the walls. Reading the play for the first time, I knew that it was a story I wanted to help tell.

Anne Boleyn may be infamous for many reasons, her death being the greatest, but it is her life that Brenton wishes to pay homage to. Walking a tightrope between keeping the King at arm’s length yet always within reach, Anne is ambitious and clever, more than a match for the other figures revolving around the court, Thomas Cromwell and Cardinal Wolsey among them. She is a woman with ideologies and the determination to advance them even in these hostile surroundings.

“Anne is above all, young, lively, and fun” 

Watching the play find its feet, what has stood out most to me is that despite her political acumen and iron will, Anne is above all, young, lively, and fun. She lifts the room with her wit and laughter, the bright centre towards which everyone, from her ladies to King Henry himself, can’t help but turn.

More than half a century later, sitting on a strange throne, the Scottish King James I of England contemplates a country divided, its conflicting religious authorities still grappling with the reverberations of the past century, and he feels Anne’s presence walking the halls still.

Standing in the Round Church on a quiet weekday afternoon, alone in the building except for the church’s ticket seller, I could envision the space it would become for a few days - when voices would reverberate through the room, bodies would occupy the spaces between pillars, and feet would tread the round, the beautiful circular centre of the church where our play takes to the stage. I felt that there could be no greater venue for the play we were about to undertake.


Mountain View

Cabaret, Redmayne and the problem of casting

The Round Church has stood in Cambridge for almost a thousand years and its walls have stood the test of time to watch history make and unmake itself. I feel privileged that our play gets to find its own place in that history in a building that could not be more connected to the thread of religion that runs, iron-strong, through Cambridge and in to the past.

Our play does not rely on elaborate costumes or set design. It has minimal light work and with a notable exception, it features few props. What makes it special to me is that it is invigorated today by the same things that were important five centuries ago, people in a room, connecting and clashing, and doing so passionately and explosively, for better or for worse. Experiencing this play is realising that sometimes there are no such things as villains, only people trying to do what they believe is right.

Despite its fraught contents, Anne Boleyn is a play full of laughter and love. Seeing our incredible cast bring it to life appeared to me as easy as breathing for them, because it is a play about humanity, and having beliefs, about being full of life and ideas for the world, and these are things they all have in abundance.