The Lion In Winter
Paul Johnson | 24 Sep 2017 19:47pm
Photo: Tim Hinchliffe.
The Lion in Winter, written by James Goldman and directed at the Playhouse Whitstable by Christine Russell, puts us at the Christmas Court at Chinon in 1183. But the manoeuvrings, machinations, rage, blatant infidelity, and above all naked ambition exhibited by the family of Henry 11 doesn’t make for a happy Christmas at Chinon. British monarchy has always been a fruitful source of material for playwrights because they are the gift that keeps on giving. This play is not historically spot on, and makes no claim to be. James Goldman has taken what is known about Henry and given us a dramatic interpretation of an early dysfunctional family.
Henry, played by David Kemp, convinces with his love/ hate relationship with wife Eleanor and his burning desire to ensure his legacy endures in any way possible. He is skilled at expressing his anger and frustration with the situation that Henry has found himself in. His sons Richard and Geoffrey, played by Christy Hinchcliffe and Dan Coles, are both convincing in their ambition and rampant sibling rivalry. The youngest son John, played by Tim Cox, is Henry’s favourite to succeed him despite describing him as “smelling of compost”. He plays Geoffrey with relish and successfully channels his Kevin the Teenager to good effect.
King Phillip of France played by Alfie Merritt is an outsider invited into a nest of vipers and conveyed his isolation and desire very effectively. Henry’s mistress Princess Alais is torn between being with Henry and having to endure the power struggle going on around her. Lucie Nash put across a stillness and underlying strength in this role that was a necessary contrast to the family mayhem going on around her. Eleanor was released from house arrest by Henry for the Christmas festivities and he couldn’t wait to send her back. Eleanor in the hands of Sarah Hinchcliffe was the most devious and dangerous of all the family but she was also strangely endearing. This was a very polished and subtle performance.
The Lion in Winter is historical in its setting, mid 20th century in its dialogue, but contemporary in its themes, the wisecracking being reminiscent of Noel Coward. The staging of this production with costumes right for the period was easy on the eye, although maybe from an audience perspective there could have been fewer blackouts on the minor scene changes.
As Eleanor says “every family has its ups and downs” – yes, but perhaps not on this scale.
Photo: Tim Hinchliffe.
- : admin
- : 20/09/2017