Friday, 27 March 2015

Review - Tamworth Dramatic Society's "The Lion In Winter" by James Goldman

Tamworth Dramatic Society - The Lion In Winter

Set at a fictitious gathering of the dysfunctional family of Henry II of England, The Lion in Winter I was surprised to learn has some historical accuracy. Henry did have long standing disagreements with his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine including his imprisoning her after she joined her children in rebelling against their father, three of whom are present in this play:
  • Richard, later to become King Richard the Lionheart.
  • Geoffrey, later Duke of Brittany.
  • John, later the Prince John of the Robin Hood legends.
The story line is quite enjoyable and you will probably recognise story lines from your favourite soap opera. Henry and Eleanor have a rather extreme love/hate relationship. Neither can resist plotting against the other and yet here and there affection can still burst forth, yet the audience is left wondering if these declarations of love are all part of their scheming. The relationship is complicated by the presence of the King's latest in a long line of mistresses, Alais, sister of the King of France (who plays a minor role) who is supposed to be married off to one of Henry's sons. Henry is under pressure to nominate his successor from amongst his remaining sons, fully aware that if any are left unsatisfied with the outcome, further rebellions will ensue. We've all probably had a miserable family Christmas or two, but after watching the shifting alliances & plots of the Angevins, most of us will no doubt look on our families more kindly.

The two stand out performers for the Tamworth Dramatic Society are Geoffrey Butler (Henry II) and young Riley Thompson (Geoffrey). Butler pitches his performance just right as a wearied but still wily monarch, determined to leave his mark. He is at times grief stricken by the rebelliousness of his family, but you sense how much he still enjoys the contest. Riley Thompson portrays the most intelligent of the sons with a hint of menace and gives the most subtle performance of the night.

Robyn Edelston as Eleanor has a tough role and needed more variety in her delivery. Aaron Jones as Richard seemed to be more comfortable in the second half, initially appearing to be taking his physical and voice cues from Lieutenant Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation. As probably the youngest actor on stage, I won't blame Jaydon Merrick for his far too camp and distracting performance as John. Director Ben Sutton should have given him more direction to produce a believable performance.

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