Final part of the Hilary Mantel trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell.
This play is the third part of the Hilary Mantel trilogy that started with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and covers the downfall and eventual (spoiler alert!) execution of Cromwell. Happily, no time was wasted in this wordy play by trying to fill in background and "previously seen" details - a working knowledge of Tudor history (or having read the book!) really helps, though it is by no means essential.
Ben Miles continues as Cromwell and also had a hand in helping Hilary Mantel bring this story to stage. Nathaniel Parker continued as Henry VII and the relationship between these two was beautifully played. Henry was a complex, capricious and, often, easily led monarch with near absolute power and Cromwell had been the master of surfing his mood swings as well as a brilliant administrator managing almost all the high offices of the land. However, Cromwell's origins as a "butcher's boy", his association with Wolsey (whose ghost flits in and out of the play) and his control over Henry and the State meant that he had many enemies amongst the nobility who determined to pull him down. His situation was not helped by Henry taking an instant dislike to Anna of Cleves, a marriage arranged by Cromwell - it is this part of his life that is covered by the play - his final rise and fall.
The cast are universally strong and immensely engaged and focused as required by such a script. Jo Herbert's Lady Rochford and Paul Adeyefa's Christophe particularly drew my attention though I found Nicholas Boulton's Suffolk perhaps a bit too much of the buffoon for my liking. The setting was simple, the lighting effective (though see my comment on scene changes) and the costume, appropriate if not as splendid as we sometimes think of courtly attire!
For me, the overall effect was a bit hampered by the proscenium arch which affected the fluidity of the movement seen in the first two plays. The staging also prompted more blackout scene changes which, given the huge number of shifts in time and location, affected the pace. One of the glories of the previous two plays was the smoothness with which we moved from scene to scene - trusting the audience to make the leaps and "keep up".
All that said, tis is a beautiful piece of theatre and if they ever do all three in one go (poor actors!) I shall be first in line to buy tickets!