A young girl falls in love with a Royal and gets married. No, not Kate Middleton but Anne Boleyn.
Her doomed love affair with Henry VIII is well known but, in Joanna Carrick’s new play for Red Rose Chain, Fallen In Love, we get to see the more personal side of Anne and her close relationship with brother George. It’s a relationship that would ultimately seal the fate of both as Henry uses an accusation of incest to free himself of Anne.
The 16th Century is a time when love is a powerful currency, affections can win titles, land and wealth and, in an echo of modern times, the cult of celebrity centres on Henry. Anne is ambitious and, although initially wary of the advancement her romance can provide, eventually falls deeply in love with the Monarch. It’s an innocent love, but one that is portrayed with touching innocence. Once first wife Catherine of Aragon has been dispatched and Anne installed as Queen, though the political machinations of Court life take their toll on Anne and she begins to fear for her future. Her brother, George, becomes her only real trusted confidant but even he has plans for his sister.
Red Rose Chain has created a unique and evocative setting for the production. Staged in the round in a yurt tent, it makes for an intimate and atmospheric atmosphere for this en-chambre tale. The simple staging is contrasted with beautifully detailed and lavish period costumes that hint at the glamour of court life.
Making an impressive and assured professional stage debut, Fleur Keith makes her Anne a believable mix of innocence and inner steel and determination. Over the course of the play we watch as that innocence slowly lost and Anne becomes more aware of the forces of Court at work and the potential threat to both her and her daughter, Elizabeth.
There is real chemistry between Keith and Joseph Pitcher, providing a strong performance as Boleyn’s brother, George. The relationship between the two grips throughout and makes it compulsive viewing.
There is of course local interest to Ipswich audiences with references to Cardinal Wolsey, who Anne calls ‘the butchers son from Ipswich’, but there surely is a much longer life for Fallen In Love beyond its Ipswich run. The show has a showcase performance at Camden’s Roundhouse but one suspects we will see more of the Boleyn’s than these runs.
A combination of a unique and atmospheric staging, a well researched and well written script and powerful performance means this is one show you will fall in love with.