The Greville Theatre Club

Katherine Howard

by William Nicholson

May/June 2010

Directed by
Karen Ashton


Review by Pat Rudkins

Michael Gray's Arts Blog

Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010.


Greville Theatre Club at the Barn Little Easton

William Nicholson's gripping take on history is staged on a red floor, against a white backdrop. Leaving us to admire the gorgeous costumes [Judy Lee and the Dressing Up Box] and the great characters.

This slice of the life of Henry VIII begins with processions and pomp – the King's marriage to Anne of Cleves [Lynda Shelverton]. She is naively ignorant of the facts of life, and the well-meant attempts of the ladies of the court to enlighten her were a high point of Act One. Another comic leavening in the tragic tale was the evidence of adultery given by Mrs Halls [Amanda Thompson].

But the drama revolves round the flirtatious young Katherine [Debbie Lee Thomson, suitably shameless, though not as innocent as Nicholson paints her, and not always convincing as a member of one of the first families in the land] her lover Culpeper [Adam Thompson] and her monarch.

Chris Kearney gave a superb Henry. The Laughton eyebrow, the temper and the smell of rotting meat, but also, and more tellingly, the self-pity and the soliloquies [the “God” speech particularly powerful]. His voice was compelling, especially in reflective mood, as he mourned the young prince imprisoned in his vast carcase, and imagined it freed once more at the day of resurrection. Another memorable moment saw the King, his youth restored by his love for his young bride, convince himself that she had betrayed him.

The young lovers, and Lady Rochford [beautifully done by Diana Bradley] are doomed because of the background “battle for the soul of England”. Peter Nicholson's excellent wry, wily Norfolk, and James Rawes' crafty Cranmer manipulate the King and his young bride for their own ends.

Karen Ashton's polished production had a strong cast, and a real sense of the tragedy and absurdity of Henry's history.