A Man for All Seasons
By Robert Bolt
13 - 18 May, 2013
I am ready to meet my maker
King Henry VIII come for a visit and speaks with Lady Margaret
Richard Rich is coming up in the world keeping in with Cromwell
Sir Thomas blesses his Wife and Daughter
The plot is based on the true story of Sir Thomas More, the 16th-century Chancellor of England, who refused to endorse King Henry VIII’s wish to divorce his ageing wife, Catherine of Aragon, who could not bear him a son, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, the sister of his former mistress.
The play portrays More as a man of principle, envied by rivals such as Thomas Cromwell and loved by the common people and by his family.
This is a powerful classic piece of period drama that demands the same of the performers – strong characters, high intrigue, a true piece of Theatre – one not to be missed
I can’t help thinking that this is an unusual piece of theatre and from a director’s point of view I have found it challenging. When I first read it I was reminded of the way a Shakespearean play is constructed; lots of scenes following each other fast and furious depicting events in many locations! But that’s where the similarity ends. Next is the historical context; despite historians’ opinions that Bolt glorifies Sir Thomas More and reduces the size of his family – it is based on fact and I believe that the arguments presented are historically accurate. But it seems that the importance of showing the events in sequence and setting out the arguments in ‘courtroom style’ detail have taken precedence over the development of the characters leaving them somewhat two-dimensional. In addition Bolt has chosen to introduce us to The Common Man, a narrator. He plays various small parts throughout the play, you will see him both taking part in the action on stage and commenting on it addressing you directly. The Common Man is a strange and unusual theatrical device, favoured by the German playwright and director, Bertolt Brecht. His role is to disrupt the stage illusion and distance the audience from emotional involvement. Technically he’s there to remind us of the place and influence of the average person in history and prevent the audience from sympathising too much with the titled characters, in this case Sir Thomas More. As a director this gives me a slight problem because I don’t favour the use of this particular technique. Subsequently I have chosen to take some liberties with the role of The Common Man because - to some extent - I do not want to completely break your illusion of being an unseen spectator at an event which is really taking place. In addition – again to some extent – I want you to have some emotional involvement. Whether my approach has been successful and done full justice to this play only you can decide. I hope you enjoy the performance.
Robert Bolt (1924 – 1995) was an English playwright known for producing dramatic work that placed the protagonist in tension with prevailing society. Born in Manchester he attended Manchester Grammar School where he developed an affinity with Sir Thomas More.
In the main Bolt wrote screenplays for film and television. These include Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago for which in 1965 he won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, and A Man for All Seasons – again winning him an Oscar in 1966 for successful adapting his own stage play to screen. Bolt originally conceived A Man For All Seasons as a radio play and it was produced by the BBC in 1954. However, by 1960 he had re-worked the play for the stage and achieved both critical and commercial success. His second most successful stage play was Vivat! Vivat Regina (1971) which was performed here at BLT in September 1974.