The Bridewell Theatre is the venue for Phil Willmott's production of Shakespeare's Henry VIII. A rarely performed history play, its opening (on June 6) towards the end of the Golden Jubilee week in London was particularly timely.
Henry VIII is full of pomp and pageantry, while also analyzing the nature of power, of royal public relations and the clash between public duty (in this case, getting a male heir) and private love.
It is not, however, one of Shakespeare's most gripping plays, which is why, perhaps, Willmott has cut and changed it so extensively — and effectively. Shakespeare purists may be surprised at hearing the voice of Sir Trevor McDonald, or seeing Cardinal Wolsey, when thrown out of power, dressed like a poor man's Richard Briers, feeding bread to ducks.
However, to see Henry VIII at the Bridewell — named after one of Henry's many palaces — is a rare chance to enjoy this late play of Shakespeare's, which runs until June 29.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow.