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November 18, 2009

A Man For All Seasons

Janet Tackley and Betty Turner did a fine job putting upon Pirton’s stage A Man For All Seasons, Robert Bolt’s historical drama about Sir Thomas More.

The play recounts events from the 16th Century. Even after being appointed England’s Lord Chancellor, the staunchly catholic Sir Thomas refuses to help his good friend and sovereign, Henry VIII divorce his first wife Catherine, so he can marry Anne Boleyn. Religious beliefs aside, as a barrister, Sir Thomas also assumes (wrongly) that strict adherence to the law will protect him from punishment – and death – fully underestimating how power can be abused and loyalty breached.

Some very fine performances added to a most enjoyable evening. Michael Tackley held the stage as a strong and dignified More. Appearing in almost every scene, he gave temperance, restraint and wisdom to a man who refused to swerve from his spiritual and intellectual convictions at the insistence of his King.

Phil Brown made an impressive Pirton Player debut as the scheming sycophant , Richard Rich. Aidan Dwyer played the mostly good-hearted yet dim-witted Duke of Norfolk with just the right amount of equivocation. Sue Kennedy and Deb Bassnett contrasted well as More’s long-suffering wife Alice and intelligent daughter Margaret.

Richard Sexton was winningly impulsive as More’s future son-in-law, William Roper. Paul Kerswill, as chief nemesis Thomas Cromwell, and Peter Johnson, as Cardinal Wolsey, More’s predecessor, were convincing as politically motivated schemers.

Adam Nicoll’s tempestuous performance of the volatile Henry VIII was superb and his slick exchange in Latin with the well-schooled Margaret added a flash of humour to the night. Peter Donovan gave a wonderfully entertaining performance as Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador. The glib and ubiquitous character of the Common Man was expertly played by Anton Jungreuthmayer. He imparted a humour and pragmatism much needed amidst the grand monarchical intrugues. Margaret Johnson (Woman) and Ed Picken (Cranmer) were just simply icing on the cake.

Praise too is due to the production team, led by Lucinda Rowe. The costumes were mostly muted, but the bejewelled attire worn by Alice, Margaret and Henry added a little colour and style at times. The lighting and music also went a long way towards establishing the excellent mood and pace of the play.

A Man For All Seasons remains one of the 20th Century’s most respected plays. It is the account of one sainted man’s steadfast dedication to conscience, country and church. It packs more intellectual punch than swashbuckling action and so is difficult to stage as a visual piece of theatre, no matter how pyrotechnic cast members may be! A big thanks to Pirton Players, therefore, for this production and for reminding us of the force of Bolt’s theme in these political times. [Review by Rachael White & Chris Starling]

Director  -  Betty Turner
Director - Janet Tackley

Producer  -  Lucinda Rowe

Cardinal Wolsey  -  Peter Johnson
Chapuys  -  Peter Donovan
Common Man  -  Anton Jungreuthmayer
Cranmer  -  Ed Picken
Duke of Norfolk  -  Aidan Dwyer
Henry VIII  -  Adam Nicoll
Margaret More  -  Debbie Bassnett
Richard Rich  -  Phill Brown
Sir Thomas More  -  Michael Tackley
Thomas Cromwell  -  Paul Kerswill
William Roper  -  Richard Sexton
Woman  -  Margaret Johnson

Costumes  -  Valmai Guess
Director  -  Betty Turner
Director  -  Janet Tackley
Front of House Design  -  Fran Manning
Front of House Design  -  Peter Harding
Front of House Design  -  Beth Harding
Front of House Design  -  Dudley Gentle
Front of House Manager  -  Nikki Clark
Lighting  -  Daniel Eccles
Lighting  -  Stuart Clark
Model of Set  -  Sue Kennedy
Movement & Department  -  Kathryn Swainston
Movement & Department  -  Keith Swainston
Music  -  Valmai Guess
Music  -  Peter Greener
Music  -  Clare Fleck
Music  -  Peter Harding
Photography  -  Dave Woodward
Producer  -  Lucinda Rowe
Programme Design  -  Sarah Oliver
Programmes  -  Janet Tackley
Prompt  -  Susie Welch
Props  -  Gena Edwards
Props  -  Rosie Hamilton-McLeod
Props  -  Jill Rogers
Props  -  Lorna Sexton
Publicity  -  Peter Donovan
Set Construction  -  Trevor Clark
Set Construction  -  Paul Turner
Set Design  -  Graham Gibbs
Set Design  -  Ann Fausset
Sound  -  Trevor Clark
Stage Crew  -  Dave Tinney
Stage Crew  -  Roy Lancaster
Stage Manager  -  Val Bryant
Technical Advice  -  Nicola Stammers
Tickets  -  Dave Woodward

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