Anne Boleyn

Date 21st May 2015
Society Westovian Theatre Society
Venue Pier Pavilion, South Shields
Type of Production Play
Director Eddie McNamee


Author: Gordon Richardson

It’s always a pleasure to visit the Westovians, such is the quality of their productions and this one was no exception. The story was expressed within two time periods – firstly through the eyes of Anne Boleyn herself and her contemporaries, and secondly through the eyes of James 1 some 70 years, later with interludes told by Anne’s ghost.

Because of these requirements this was a directorially difficult production to achieve, but achieve it Eddie McNamee did, with various story progressing monologues being told by the various characters via a centrally held spotlight as the action ‘froze’ around them. This was a single set simply furnished with additional props being brought onto stage to signify variations to the locations/time periods.

In such a large cast for a play (19) it is unreasonable in such a report to name everyone – but everyone, no matter how large or small their roles were, enhanced the production.  A few people are most worthy of a mention though. Firstly the role of Anne herself was played with superb passion, vulnerability, feistiness and, at times, pathos by Sarah Boulter as we saw her journey from King’s lover, wife, Queen to ‘Traitor’ (on what can only be described as spurious evidence.) Her role along this journey was aided by Ladies in Waiting Lady Celia (Miriam Beber), Lady Rochford (Danielle Miller) and Lady Jane Seymour (Jennifer Boyack).

King Henry VIII’s twenty something year old self was played in commanding form by Andrew Dawson as he ruled his court and supported his wife (until frustrated by lack of a son). Andrew’s excellence in the role is even more outstanding given that due to a very late cast drop-out meant that he exchanged roles and learnt the very demanding, wordy role in just over a fortnight.

The political side of the court of Henry was fulfilled by Ron Markwick as ‘Thomas Cromwell’ in fine fashion, and the spiritual side fulfilled by Gary Manson as the scheming, wonderfully smarmy and rich-living ‘Cardinal Wolsey’.

The court of James 1 was headed by Peter Dawson as the homosexual, cross-dressing King in superb manner as he openly flirted with his ‘husband’ ‘George Villiers’ (also played by Gary Manson). The scene where James 1 put the two main church protagonists (Dr John Reynolds and Dean Lancelot Andrewes – Allen Howes and Simon Spark respectively) in a cold room together without chairs in order to thrash out their differences before ‘imposing’ his thoughts on the pair as to the formation of the King James Bible was very amusing.

I knew very little of this period in our history, and now hold a greater understanding because of this wonderfully acted play. Well done Westovians.