Thursday, 19 July 2007

A Man For All Seasons, Complete Works Theatre Company, July 19, 2007

What: A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt by Complete Works Theatre Company
Where and When: July 18-20, 21, 25 at 7.30pm, July 18-20, 23-26 at 10.30 am then touring Victoria
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on July 19, 2007

A Man For All Seasons, by Robert Bolt, provides a glimpse into the life and death of Saint Thomas More (Paul English), Chancellor to Henry VIII (Philip Cameron-Smith). More, a lawyer and pious Catholic, sealed his fate by refusing to condone the divorce of Henry from Catherine of Aragon or to sign the bill that confirmed Anne Boleyn’s children as rightful successors to the throne.

English plays More with gentleness, warmth and quiet dignity. More’s forbearance and good humour in the face of betrayal and personal attacks are capably depicted in Bolt’s script.

Although Bolt’s language is heightened and often poetic capturing the tone of the Tudor period, it is accessible to a modern and even a school-age audience. The story is narrated by The Common Man played by Syd Brisbane who skilfully transforms into various working-men: More’s servant, his gaoler, a boatman and other servants.

An accomplished cast supports English. Stewart Morritt imbues the ambitious Thomas Cromwell with an imposing and sinister quality. Cromwell’s actions are self-serving and often malicious as he sends his spies to seek information to damage More’s reputation.

Carole Patullo portrays More’s wife Alice as loyal and sympathetic, a woman struggling to understand her husband’s decisions. The gaol cell scene between English and Patullo is a moving celebration of love and loss.

Philip Cameron-Smith is an impressively rowdy and unpredictable Henry, Dino Marnika is charmingly amusing as the Spanish Ambassador and Brian Vriends is a sturdy Norfolk. Phillip McInnes plays the oily, treacherous Rich, Eryn Jean Norvill is poised as More’s daughter and Angus Grant plays her self-righteous husband, Roper.

Andrew Blackman’s direction is simple and uncluttered, focussing on More and his relationships to others. The flexible design (Mark Wager) provides a muted grey environment with three opaque screens and a wooden table setting.

Thomas More sacrificed his life rather than his religious and moral code. He chose to remain silent rather than support a parliamentary bill that broke with the Pope and gave Henry rule over the Church. This is a play about commitment to one’s conscience and beliefs. More chose to be righteous and honourable rather than pander to a powerful King’s desire to change wives.

By Kate Herbert

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