The story of the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn is one that has been retold countless times. No doubt, because it has all the ingredients for a salacious tale – royalty, romance, betrayal, political machinations and, let us not forget, the seedier mutterings of incest. This notoriety means it is key, though, for an author to find a new angle, so that their rendition of the story stands out.
Philippa Gregory has already famously run with the idea of telling Anne Boleyn’s story from the vantage point of her sister Mary. Joanna Carrick and the Red Rose Chain Theatre Company has instead gone with the interplay between Anne and her brother George, with whom Anne was accused of committing incest.
Atmospherically staged in the banqueting suite of the Tower of London, where Boleyn brother and sister met their fate, Fallen in Love allows Anne’s history to unfold through interactions between herself and her beloved brother George.
There are no other characters in this play, intimately set on and around a bed surrounded by the small audience. The decision to keep the set simple and focused around the bed – which plays bed, dancefloor and executioner’s stage – fantastically highlights the closeted atmosphere of a court life that, particularly for women, revolved around what was done or discussed in the bedchamber.
The constant presence of the bed also kept the audience on edge to see which way Carrick would interpret the rumours that Anne and George had an incestuous relationship (and I won’t spoil it for you).
Emma Connell and Scott Ellis inhabited the characters of Anne and George beautifully and really gripped the attention of the audience, showcasing a sensitive acting range that captured the subtleties of Anne and George’s relationship.
The script itself is not bad, allowing Anne and George to spark alive occasionally for the audience. Carrick is to be commended for the way she also allows other historical figures to come alive through George and Anne’s retellings.
However, it felt like sometimes the scenes didn’t change smoothly and the scripting was a bit predictable. There was no new side really to the Anne Boleyn story that emerged and occasionally time that could have been spent building character depth further was sacrificed to get all the historical facts about Anne Boleyn’s story out there.
Tudor buffs may be left feeling a little disappointed, but this quaint play is still worth seeing if you love your court intrigues and are a newcomer to Tudor history. Also, the chance to experience the Tower of London after visiting hours is definitely not something to be passed up.
Fallen in Love is being performed on June 8-9, 13-16 at:
Tower of London
Tickets are available through Red Rose Chain Theatre Company (0844 800 3371) or online.
Photo: Nick Woolgar