"To me, it is delightful", Sir Thomas More declares in Union Theatre's accomplished production of Robert Bolt’s renowned play, A Man For All Seasons - and it is indeed delightful.
Based on the true story of Sir Thomas More, the 16th-century Chancellor of England, this compelling version focuses on the last seven years of his life, in particular the fierce struggle between Thomas and his King, Henry VIII. Whilst Henry is determined to break with Rome so he can divorce his wife Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn, the staunchly Catholic More internally battles with his inability to go along with such heresy. With hugely successful stage and screen adaptations of Hilary Mantel's best selling novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, there is currently a real interest in this rich period of history - and the Solihull-based Union Theatre do not disappoint.
The story is confidently brought to life by a strong cast. Mark Firmstone gives a convincing portrayal of the perilously moral Thomas More, and Victoria Ellery-Jones gives a poignant and powerful performance as his long-suffering wife, Alice. Special mentions also go to the engaging Rosie Jewell as their daughter Margaret, and to Jackie Justham, who injects welcome doses of humour in her wonderfully diverse roles as the Common Woman.
An intelligent and complex play, this humour is balanced by a real sadness, which we see in the play’s emotional examination of the strength of More’s integrity and the effect of this upon those around him. Sir Thomas More stays true to his conscience but, whilst he retains his principles, he ultimately loses his wife and family in the process.
The setting of St Edburgha's Church in Yardley plays an interesting and significant role in itself. Steeped in the historical context of the production, the North Wall of the church is adorned with a stunning carved door to celebrate the first wedding of Catherine of Aragon to Henry’s brother Prince Arthur. The parish of Yardley was also given to Catherine as part of her divorce settlement from Henry when their marriage ended, giving a truly immersive sense of being transported back to the era we see skilfully depicted on stage.
Founded in 1979, Union Theatre is an amateur group affiliated with the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) and NODA West Midlands and won a Best Drama Award for their version of The Government Inspector at the NODA West Midlands Regional Awards 2013. Having last performed Peter Pan The Musical, their latest offering perfectly showcases their talent and versatility as a company.
Union Theatre's production of A Man For All Seasons runs at St Edburgha's Church until Saturday 25 April. For more information and to book, call the ticket hotline on 0121 784 4067.
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