Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

15/06/2013 - 13/07/2013

Production Details

Beguiling temptress or feisty schemer? 

Hunting through an old chest, the flamboyant, newly-crowned James I discovers the controversial legacy of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII ‘s notorious second wife. Time jumps back 70 years, when the witty, clever and flirtatious Anne was in love with not only Henry, but also the most dangerous ideas of her day.

Conspiring with the exiled heretic William Tyndale, she plots to make England Protestant – forever. Compelling, shrewd, funny and celebratory, Anne Boleyn leaps cunningly between generations, mortal dangers and shifting allegiances to expose the life and legacy of the woman dubbed ‘the whore who changed Britain.’

“Riveting, rollicking stuff, rich and spicy as a Tudor banquet.” – The Times

“Ticklishly enjoyable. Teasingly intelligent. A big, bold and generous evening.”- The Sunday Telegraph

“Anne Boleyn makes religion sexy – and doctrinal disputes bloody good fun.”- Time Out

“Who would have thought that a drama about biblical translations and the differences between them could be so entertaining? But Howard Brenton’s new play, written for London’s Globe Theatre, bursts with theatrical vitality and brings light and clarity to the convoluted world of Tudor politics. This is our 21st birthday treat for ourselves and for you, our audience. Big cast, big ideas AND big-hearted rollicking good theatre.” – Colin

Q Rangatira
Thursday Jun 13 – Saturday Jul 13 2013 
6.30pm Tue & Wed, 8pm Thu – Sat, 4pm Sun; Matinee 2pm Sat 29 June 
Ticket price: $28 – $62

Anna Jullienne — Anne Boleyn
Andrew Grainger — Henry VIII
Paul Minifie — Wolsey/Countryman/John Reynolds
Simon Prast — Thomas Cromwell
Claire Dougan — Lady Rochford
Jordan Mooney — Simpkin/George Villiers
Peter Daube — Sloop/William Tyndale/Henry Barrow
Mikassa Cornwall — Lady Celia/Countrywoman
Lauren Gibson — Lady Jane Seymour
Stephen Lovatt — James I
George Henare — Cecil/Countryman/Courtier
Raymond Hawthorne — Dean Lancelot Andrewes/Countryman
Ken Blackburn — Parrot/Courtier/Countryman
Hera Dunleavy — Lady Margery/Countrywoman 

Colin McColl — Director
Hera Dunleavy — Assistant Director
Rachael Walker — Set Designer
Elizabeth Whiting — Costume Designer
Phillip Dexter MSc — Lighting Designer
Adrian Hollay — Sound Designer
Marija Stanisich — Choreographer 

Paul Nicoll — Technical & Production Manager
Fern Christie — Company Manager
Chelsea Adams — Stage Manager
Natalie Braid — Assistant Stage Manager
Josh Bond — Technical Operator
Natasha Pearl — Props Master
Sophie Ham — Wardrobe Supervisor
2Construct — Set Construction 

The Other Woman

Review by James Wenley 19th Jun 2013

Boleyn comes encumbered by reputation. She’s called a great deal many things through the course of the play: “the harlot queen”, “intolerable woman”, “witch”, “the whore”. She’s arguably subject to one of history’s great hatchet jobs, the dangerous female who bewitched a King and tore England asunder. For his 2010 drama, Howard Brenton recasts and reclaims Anne as a tragic heroine who seeks to make her own place within the male-dominated factions of Henry VIII’s court, and by winning the King’s love, and the King’s ear, steers world history on a different course. 

Brenton’s Anne, by way of Anna Julienne, is driven by a potency of burning ambition, higher ideal, changing-the-world zeal, and, yes, love. [More]


Make a comment

Naked self-serving ambition and greed, driven by fear

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 17th Jun 2013

Playwright Howard Brenton takes a complex hedonistic period in English history – The House of Tudor, 1500s, King Henry V111; a time defined by his six wives, especially Anne Boleyn, the rise of Protestantism, denying the universal authority of the Pope, and England’s break from the Roman Catholic Church – and connects it with the reign of King James 1, 70 years later (when he was crowned King of England and Scotland, when Elizabeth I, Anne’s daughter, died unmarried; a time defined by a revised version of The Bible). The connection comes from James’ devised fascination with Anne Boleyn.  Phew.

The premise is bold, colourful, fun, accessible and upfront. We are thrust into the muddle of religious doctrine; into the middle an ambitious self-serving monarch, parliament and church. In addition, Brenton portrays Anne as committed to the protestant cause above all else – an astute and fearless political strategist rather than the more popularised view of an ambitious gold-digging minx, or, as her enemies called her at the time, “the whore who changed England.” This intriguing mix reassesses a fascinating period of history with frankness and honesty. 

If you know nothing of this period, you’ll be compelled to find out more when you leave the theatre. If you know everything about this period, you’ll be compelled to re-think it.

The idea is loaded but worth committing to, even if the structure is unconventional, jumping between the two reigns which are separated by 70 years, rather than sequential. In addition to this “play within a play” device, at times the work feels like a presentation of an alternative historical perspective, rather than a theatrical narrative.

Anne speaks directly to us in the opening scene, set post-execution, as she reveals a key item from her bag. “What were you expecting?” she enquires. It takes me a while to adjust and I resist the urge to compare Anne Boleyn to ATC’s more conventional production of Mary Stuart in 2011. It’s worth leaving preconceived notions at the door.

Perhaps because Brenton takes this bold perspective, ATC’s team, led by director Colin McColl and his first-time assistant Hera Dunleavy, are equally fearless in their presentation, allowing their creatives to bask in unbound freedom. In addition, their rich cast is lined with Auckland’s version of theatre royalty, with many wonderful past leaders of old theatre companies which burned so bright before they fell, making a welcome return to the stage, after such a long absence. 

Rachael Walker’s set is simple genius. A withered tree wrapped in gold, at the back of a spartan stage, represents the diminishing role of the Catholic Church in England pushed to the rear, as protestant minimalism emerges. Big metal beams and pillars tower above and either side of the emptiness, perhaps to depict the omnipresent strength of the monarchy’s foundation.

Mixing now with historical was novel when Baz Luhrmann led the way with Romeo and Juliet in 1996. He’s resurrected the vibe with his most recent blockbuster; The Great Gatsby – team McColl-Dunleavy have done the same. 

Hence, the pre show and interval music is today’s religion – Doobie Brothers’ ‘Jesus Is Just Alright With Me’, Johnny Cash’s ‘My Own Personal Jesus’, plus ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’, etc – reminding us that Jesus, God and all they stand for, are everywhere, engrained in popular culture and music, just as they were then.

Adrian Hollay’s sound design during the actual play is sprinkled sparingly, yet to good effect – for example, adding a pensive quality to Anne’s secret meeting with William Tyndale, condemned by Wolsey as a religious heretic for writing the game-changing book, The Obedience of a Christian Man.

Lighting by the always-incisive Phillip Dexter, supports the emotional drive in all scenes. Thankfully, he remains true to the content, rather than the modern trappings of this production – for example, resisting the opportunity to be too cheesy and modern in the 1950s dance sequence. For me, that would’ve been a detracting step too far. As it is, I find the dance too long, adding nothing of consequence. 

Elizabeth Whiting’s mixed-century costumes are a wild mix of unrestrained colour, style and texture. The wardrobe of the flamboyant King James is memorable, while the ladies of The Tudor Court are gorgeously sumptuous. Hemlines are up and convention is down.

Anna Jullienne in particular, looks extraordinary in the title role. Her statuesque voluptuous figure, owns the stage. There’s simply nowhere else you want to look when she holds court. 

Stephen Lovatt cuts a wonderful thick Scottish accent, which is as commanding and gratifying as his performance. He relishes the fact that Brenton uses James to proclaim many truisms about the Tudor rule, and about the manipulation of religion for power, that are as relevant to us today as they were to James in 1603.

Through King James, Brenton revisits the chain reaction from Anne’s desire to marry Henry: a fundamental religious shift away from the divinity of the Pope and Catholicism, to a new Church of England, allowing divorce. It had brutal consequence that, from today’s perspective, seems barbaric and unthinkable. Yet human atrocities committed in the name of religion, such as Islamic Jihad (holy wars) and the ongoing modern unrest between Muslim and Christian doctrine, continue to take lives around the world. As James states, “Nothing can tear a country apart like religion.” When will we learn? Yet as Brenton so succinctly illuminates, every Monarch, including shrewd King James, can see the benefit of ruling a country with “everyone at church on their knees, without really knowing why.” Like lambs to the slaughter. 

Paul Minifie as Wolsey, resisting religious change, being the Pope’s eyes and ears, as King Henry’s Cardinal, is suitably internally fearful and externally reactive.

As is Raymond Hawthorne (playing Dean Lancelot Andrewes), as he negotiates with suppressed panic and philosophical pragmatism, and appeases James’ desire to reword a more tolerant edition of The Bible (of course in Monarchy’s favour), by gathering together all “religionists” to talk about details amongst themselves, and come up with common ground. Brenton gives the exasperated Andrewes such wonderful lines as, “His majesty has bundled us all together as fanatics.”

Brenton also throws in some brutal honesty about the precarious nature of a women’s place in the 1500s. It is wonderfully illustrated as Anne’s ladies in waiting – uniformly well played by Lauren Gibson, Mikassa Cornwall and Hera Dunleavy – openly discuss crude methods of contraception; their only way to assert some control over their lives, if they are chosen as a powerful man’s muse. 

Andrew Grainger has an interesting journey, as Brenton’s Henry V111, and impresses greatly by playing less the ‘all-powerful leader’ and more the ‘simply smitten man’. 

Simon Prast, as the scheming Thomas Cromwell, is a stealth like, dangerous uncompromising silent assassin. Chilling and calculated in his every move, Prast gives a stunning performance. Without saying or overtly showing it, we are left in no doubt that for Cromwell, it was always about the money. 

Claire Dougan as Lady Rochford delivers an excellent and compelling performance. At times suitably restrained alongside her lead-lady, yet at other times, emotional and undone.

Jordan Mooney enjoys the role of George Villiers, King James’ lover (within the protective walls of the kingdom); Peter Daube plays a convincing William Tyndale; George Henare as Cecil, is the perfect spymaster; and Ken Blackburn as a courtier (and other small roles) rounds up the fabulous cast. 

What I take away from Brenton’s work is that if you strip away the etiquette, manners, poetry, grandeur, façade, pomp and ceremony, what you are left with, in this political-religious melting pot, is naked self-serving ambition and greed, driven by fear. So it was under the Tudors, so it was under the Stuarts.

Everyone uses God – or more importantly, how people can supposedly talk to God – for position and power. In other, words: money.

Howard Brenton’s contemporary perspective is honest and practical. He uses his characters to teach us well, as James flippantly states, “We are what we do,” while Lady Rochford states, “I hate politics” (but loves to keep her life), and Cromwell remarks, “Fear is the leveller,” just before Anne concludes with, “Good-bye demons, bless you all.”

Jesus Christ there’s a lot to think about.


Make a comment

A lavish and thought-provoking view of Reformation

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 17th Jun 2013

Although he has a wicked sense of humour British playwright Howard Brenton takes his history seriously and ATC’s sumptuous production of Anne Boleyn offers a bracingly intelligent vision of the Reformation as it plunges us into the complex theological disputes that underpinned Henry VIII’s marital discord.

The play presents a dazzling interpretation of how the Protestant revolution destroyed the idea of a singular truth derived from a unanimously recognised authority and ushered in the modern world with all the chaotic uncertainties that accompany individual freedom. [More]


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council