Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

22/10/2014 - 01/11/2014

Production Details

Who was Anne Boleyn? Beguiling temptress? Feisty schemer? Or was she something entirely different? 

Hunting through an old chest, the flamboyant, newly-crowned James I discovers the controversial legacy of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s notorious second wife. and discovers the story of how the witty, clever and flirtatious Anne was in love with not only Henry, but also the most dangerous ideas of her day. 

This production of Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn is produced by Apocalypse Lounge and directed by Louise Blackstock, whose NZ premiere production of Brenton’s In Extremis at the Hamilton Gardens Festival was hailed as “Enthralling… without a doubt one of the best shows at this year’s festival.” (Theatreview.) 

Fast, modern and funny, Anne Boleyn is a new view of the woman dubbed “the whore who changed England.” 

Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton  
Wed 22, Thurs 23, Fri 24 and Sat 25th October, 7pm 
Wed 29, Thurs 30 October, Sat 1 November, 7pm 
Matinee Saturday 1 November at 1pm 

$20 tickets, $15 concession. Matinee $10.  

Tickets by iTICKET  

Bronwyn Williams:  Anne Boleyn 
Mike Taylor:  Henry VIII 
Jono Carter:  Thomas Cromwell 
David Taylor:  King James I 
Clare McDonald:  Lady Jane Rochford 
Mark Houlahan:  Cardinal Wolsey
Philip Garrity:  George Villiers
Brendan West:  Robert Cecil
Ajsha Trebilco:  Lady Jane Seymour /countrywoman  
Courteney Nielsen:  Lady Celia /countrywoman  
Joshua Drummond:  Simpkin/Parrot
Hannah Grant:  Sloop 
Ross MacLeod:  Dean Lancelot Andrewes/guard 
Tim Kapoor:  Dr John Reynolds /countryman/guard 
Kirstine Moffat:  Henry Barrow /countrywoman
Conor Maxwell:  William Tyndale 

Stage Manager: Jonathan Wilce 
Stagehand:  Ellen Barnard 
Lighting/Sound: Danny Mills 
Lighting Design:  Brendan West & Danny Mills 
Costumes:  Cherie Cooke 
French Hoods:  Lucy Smith 
Poster Design:  Joshua Drummond
Music recorded by:  Judy McDonald, Rod McDonald, Clive Lamdin, Julie Lummus, Andrea Schweer 

Falls short but sufficiently watchable

Review by Richard Howard 26th Oct 2014

The story of the Lady Anne Boleyn has endured and fascinated readers and audiences across the centuries and across the world, even coming to Hamilton, each rendition adding to the understanding of her character and place in world affairs in her time.  

It is a very good tale made more compelling because it is in essence a true story carrying the intrigue and tragedy associated with Anne who championed a radical religious and social agenda. 

This version by Howard Brenton portrays, as you would expect, Anne’s known rise from relative noble obscurity at Henry VIII’s will and pleasure, to royal mistress and then Queen, mother of Elisabeth I, and then her absolute betrayal.  

We are carried deeper into Anne’s critical involvement, at great personal risk, in promoting the cause of protestant reform in a staunchly Catholic England and her persuasive powers with Henry, who adopted the new faith, becoming the all-powerful head of the Church of England. 

Thomas Cromwell, son of a blacksmith, lawyer, risen to be the King’s all-powerful minister and advisor, is revealed as the ruthless, dishonest, manipulating henchman he was, being largely responsible for Anne’s downfall and rendezvous with the executioner. 

The writing and story-telling are competent but there is not the richness in the dialogue which would befit the subject, the historical style and standing of the characters in an age of great writing, music, poetry.  

We are not, as audience, touched by the situation or plight of any of the characters as there are no literary vehicles to convey the emotion of the story. Thus, the tale is carried in a style more like sitcom than literary. 

I am not convinced that the device of Anne’s ghost is necessary or adds much to the telling especially at the start and end of the play, at least it is not well utilised by the writer to best effect. 

The cast delivers the story with great commitment and to the best of their performing abilities as a mix of semi-professionals and non-professionals. The performance flows quite well although a more consistent dynamic pace in delivery and entrances and exits and intermediary action would serve well.

This is a play of words; very little happens by way of dramatic action. Regrettably very few of the cast are up to the vocal challenge of the performance – New Zealand accents do not work in this context, neither do approximations of court style; and there are inaudible moments when some voices erode into domestic speak.

Worryingly, our King Henry pushes his voice down into his throat when required to assert himself in manner and volume. His is, however, a likeable portrayal of a King who later becomes a monster and his quieter moments in the play with Anne draw us in. 

Thomas Cromwell (Jono Carter) dressed more dandy like than the elevated, soldier thug he was, has adopted a formality of presence and speech too refined for his lowly, country origins – whereas the power of his character is more likely to be found in his native cunning; his rough and plain ways. The tendency to play a villain, rather than a rounded character who is devious, ambitious and villainous should have been avoided. 

We needed a greater sense of ecclesiastical gravitas and courtly manner from Cardinal Wolsey (Mark Houlahan) and at least a hint of great wealth – perhaps a jewel encrusted crucifix and chain would have assisted.

Anne (Bronwyn Williams) successfully carries the play and the style of the times and her presence quite well, vocally and in her manner, but could afford to go even further to convey her breeding, to highlight her considerable character, intelligence and strength against the demure manner of her upbringing in a totally male dominated era.  

The piece demands a solid stage presence, a strong expression of character and authority from the key players – these were powerful, sophisticated historical characters – which require a depth of understanding, character building and a developed performance skill that is largely missing in this cast.

Outlawed protestant reformer William Tyndale (Conor Maxwell) adds a quiet, convincing presence.

Of all the characters however, King James I is by far the most interesting, charming, amusing, consistent and convincing. Introduced to the play as a device to reflect on the reputation, deeds and achievements of Anne (living, then executed some 67 years before his reign), he is also portrayed as the historical inheritor of her legacy after Elizabeth I; it is he who consolidated the protestant cause, liberalised religious choice to some extent in his realm and brought the world the protestant bible.

This is a gem of a part for an actor to tackle with a broad scope for showy, eccentric characterisation – King, cross dresser, homosexual lover, drinker, politically astute leader and reformer – and is nicely played by David Taylor.

I would like to have seen greater creativity exerted in the setting of the piece, which is very stark, and more variation and effective use of the stage, the exits and entrances. The tread of the actors moving on and off stage could well be softened as it becomes irritating. A more repressed atmosphere and a much greater sense of threat and betrayal could have been built into the production.

The production values, the choices and limitations around costumes and props were variable, somewhat course and overall disappointing for a costumed drama, especially as we are all aware of the wealth and richness of dress and surroundings associated with the period. 

The telling of this story in dramatic performance needs to be more skilfully directed and the characters better assisted, honed and shaped. However the production does hang together and provides sufficient merit, and insight into Anne Boleyn and the time and world she inhabited to be watchable.


Michele Devereux-Austin November 9th, 2014

You should have seen the production from Blenheim Reportory... director ..Pam logan...Cast wonderful........Anne and Henry and James entranced...costumes from Wellington plus some from our own seamstresses. Everyone who saw it was intrieged by the solid stage set, which was delt with by great lighting only. Wonderful dance scenes by Jenni Mark.The whole company were very together and gelled well.

Michele...2nd country woman

Richard Howard Reviewer October 28th, 2014

I am pleased that the critics of my review connected more with this production of Anne Boleyn than I did, and were happy to discount the numerous flaws that I identified, in their defence of the cast and Director, and their own obvious alliance with the production team their enjoyment of the piece. I believe I was very clear about both the merits of the production and the flaws, providing a basis for encouragement as well as consideration, for growth in perfomance sensibility and craft; and ultimately an improved perfomance experience. People of course experience performance through different lenses and levels of experience, empathies and alliance and exposure to theatre expertise.  Disparity in opinion is as inevitable as responses to a reviewers opinion. Had I seen more expertise evident in this production and more understanding of period of characterisation and directorial skill than I in fact did I would have been pleased to communicate this to readers. Reviews are not designed to offend even though they are sometimes not popular, they exist as an indicator or quality benchmark for people to accept or not.  I do not shy away from the reviewers responsibility and professional capablity, to identify the positive qualities and flaws of a performance "product" and the customer experience, and to give an informed opinion.

Stephaine October 28th, 2014

I'm not going to complain about the review, the individual above me has said anything and everything that is merited saying in that regard.

I am however going to voice an opinion much to the contrary of the one voiced by this reviewer, both for the public whom may read this, and for the cast and crew of Anne Boleyn who will no doubt have read the comments themselves and are left scratching their heads wondering where they went wrong.

In short, they did very little wrong, I loved this show. The minimalist set, combined with muted lighting and a cozy globe-like feel to the theatre meant that we (My husband and I) were able to connect wonderfully with the characters that the cast were portraying, from Anne Boleyn herself (Bronwyn Williams) to somewhat more minor characters in the form of the exquisitely deranged Henry Barrow (Portrayed by Kirstine Moffat) and the sticky-fingered Master Parrot (Joshua Drummond).

I concede that the projection could, at times, have been better, and there were moments when accents would decide to take a wee jaunt around the UK or return home to New Zealand before returning to normal. But this does little to damage an experience that is otherwise captivating and compelling, taking a well-known tale of Tudor history and giving it new life on The Meteor's stage.

My commendations to the cast and crew, particularly to director Louise Blackstock who has clearly worked hard to create this delightful theatrical morsel. If anyone is umming and ahhing over whether to take the time to go along and see this show then I would thoroughly recommend you do so. I know that I myself will be returning later this week with friends and I have no doubt that I will enjoy myself equally greatly the second time around.

Baffled Community Theatre Member October 27th, 2014

This review is highly unprofessional, and makes about as much sense as a film reviewer writing about how Transformers was not in keeping with the wistful aesthetic of French art films and the special effects did nothing to provide a literary vehicles to convey the emotion of the story.

In future, please write reviews about the play you saw, rather than the play you expected to see.


A Baffled Community Theatre Member

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