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Anne Boleyn - Blackpool Grand Theatre

Having enjoyed two packed seasons at Shakespeare’s Globe, this English Touring Theatre production of writer Howard Brenton’s critically lauded interpretation of the rise and fall of Henry VIII’s second wife is a slice of must see drama.

Granted a reasonable GSCE pass in English History or the very least a DVD box set of The Tudors will be a help to start you on the machinations of politics and religion in early 16th century England but don’t worry too much – Brenton’s fusion of fact and fiction, anecdotes and history together with accessible modern day language and even a fair slice of humour carries the story along in fine style.

Depending on which version of her life you adhere to Boleyn was either a scheming social climber determined to land herself a king at all costs (though she hung on seven years before sleeping with him), or an intelligent and witty woman who few men could resist.

Either way up she met a sticky end, giving birth to a boy instead of a girl, suffering several miscarriages and knowing too much, she was beheaded having been accused of adultery, incest and treason.

Her story, and the influence she had on king and country, is told in retrospect when 70 years later the newly crowned King James uncovers her controversial legacy.

James Garnon plays the Scottish king in scene stealing style with more than a dash of Eddie Izzard about the eccentric ruler.

Likewise David Sturzaker breaks the usual Henry mould as a handsome and occasionally naïve romancer while Jo Herbert’s Boleyn leaves us in no doubt she was more sinned against than sinning.

Conflicting religions, political corruption, a monarchy fearful of incomers and insurrection and the belief that “fear is the great leveller” – some things just never change.

Robin Duke