Philobiblon: Trust in the law is not for this season

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Trust in the law is not for this season

Classically fine acting by a evenly excellent cast; a sumptuous set and costumes; beautifully balanced staging; the flowing speech and sharp humour of Robert Bolt - the new production of A Man for All Seasons at the Theatre Royal Haymarket has everything needed for a stunning evening's entertainment. No complaints at all, except a central one about its moral balance - the compass point is on north, but where is it really pointed?

The fault cannot be laid on today's actors or director, but the world has changed between 1960, when Bolt wrote the play, and 2006 - perhaps it is we who are unbalanced, not the play. Then, for a man to put absolute trust in the law, as Sir Thomas More does in believing that he can save his life by refusing to speak on his reasons for quitting the King's service and subsequently refusing to sign the Act of Supremacy, might have been sensible enough. That was before Britain started up locking people without charge or trial in Belmarsh prison, or arresting them for reading out the names of the dead in Iraq in an entirely peaceful political protest.

We still want to believe in the rule of law, but we know all too well that rulers and governments determined to find a way to bring down an individual are all too likely to do so, even in Ye Goode Olde Englande. That belief can only be stronger, when the ruler is Daniel Flynn's powerful, mercurial, dangerously immature Henry VIII. He swings from childlike pleading, to thunderous anger, to hysterical giggles in an attempt to seduce Martin Shaw's Sir Thomas to do his bidding in getting rid of his now inconvenient first queen. It is clear that Henry truly believes in each political and religious position, just for so long as it suits him; a tantrum-prone three-year-old is on the throne. READ MORE


Blogger Tony said...

"That was before Britain started up locking up people without charge or trial..."
Yes, indeed. Sir Thomas believed in giving people with different beliefs to his a fair trial before burning them at the stake.

1/06/2006 05:28:00 pm  

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