Reviews for The Sphere of Light
REVIEWS THE SPHERE OF LIGHT BY ANN HENNING JOCELYN,
HEVER CASTLE THEATRE FESTIVAL, AUGUST 4/5TH, 2023.
“After Hilary Mantel and Alison Weir and the films and plays that have flowed from their books, is there room for more on the Boleyn story? Actually, there is.
In The Sphere of Light, Ann Henning Jocelyn focuses on two individuals left on the sidelines or wholly omitted from previous accounts of the intrigues at the court of Henry VIII in the 1530s. The first is Lady Rochford, sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn, who gave evidence to Cromwell that led to the downfall and execution both of her own husband and the Queen. The second is a mysterious George Boleyn, a clergyman of the next generation, who may, on some readings, be the son of Lady Rochford and her husband. The play offers a solution to why Lady Rochford turned on her relatives and why George, if he was indeed her son, remained unacknowledged. We are invited to imagine that all the participants are reunited in ‘the sphere of light’ after death and compelled to give George, in particular, answers to the many questions he has.
It is an engrossing story, and Jocelyn deserves credit for finding a lucid structure in which to unravel it once more, getting the balance right between the complexities of family and court politics under Henry VIII and avoiding over-elaboration with too many layers of intrigue and subterfuge. The characters are well developed and the politics is broken up with bawdy irreverent ballads showing how unillusioned the populace were about the goings on at court.
There were some characterful performances: as the unrecognised and neglected George Boleyn, Julian Bird ranged from chirpy toddler through to gruff and disillusioned old age with skill. Kitty Whitelaw applied a slow burn to the role of the vengeful Lady Rochford, complacent and accepting to start with, and then coming into her own in the final scenes. Robert Madeley looked elegant and shifty as a her husband and provided a useful double-act as a balladeer breaking down the fourth wall. Sarah O’Toole demonstrated the bright, arrogant charm and edgy self-esteem we now familiarly associate with Anne Boleyn, the favoured, pampered daughter of an ambitious clan. Maud May quietly revealed the more appealing aspects of Mary Boleyn, former mistress of a younger, more attractive Henry VIII, and Elaine Montgomerie projected the forceful matriarch of the family, drawing on many years of acting experience.
Henry himself does not appear, but looms over the action as a capricious, unpredictable and malign presence. It seems entirely plausible that his main motivations throughout these crucial years in English history were not about religion or even lust but rather a determination to impose his will and defy his father’s low assessment of his potential as monarch. In showing how the political ultimately is both personal and familial this play reminds us of a central truth that does not change over time.”
Dr Tim Hochstrasser, htpps://playstosee.com
“All credit to the cast of this engaging play and to the playwright of such a compelling script. Ann Henning Jocelyn is to be commended for taking a complex and layered moment in history and presenting it in an accessible and engrossing way. The songs of the balladeer –with the audience participating – added light relief and social context, in contrast to the solemnity on stage, but the ultimate surprise awaited in the final act. What may be the true reason behind the fate of Anne Boleyn, her brother George and the others beheaded at the behest of the king, comes as a shock and provides reason to Lady Jane’s actions. The actor Kitty Whitelaw’s powerful and moving delivery of her final speech left the audience entranced.
Jocelyn must be praised for the painstaking research – which has been verified by Tudor historians – that she has put into revealing this previously unknown twist in the Boleyn story. To attempt to change the narrative of such an already documented era is a bold choice –and one that works very well.”
The Tandridge Independent
“The history of the Boleyn family is at the heart of Hever Castle, and on August 4/5th 2023, the exquisite Loggia by the lake was the setting for three performances of The Sphere of Light, a play uncovering the secrets of the famous Boleyn women in relation to their actions and response to Anne’s rise to power, marriage to King Henry VIII, elevation to Queen of England and terrible death. A fine cast of actors drew on the work of Ann Henning Jocelyn who, as wife of a direct descendant, presents a brand-new slant to the gruesome fate that befell the Boleyn family. The premise is a previously unknown nephew of Anne and Mary exploring their stories and motivations. In three acts, the play develops like a detective story, culminating in a startling conclusion.”
“The Sphere of Light delves into the secrets of the Boleyn family, particularly former Queen of England Anne Boleyn, who grew up living at Hever Castle. The play is a fascinating depiction of Tudor history, which dispels myths about the family as more and more truths are revealed. The show has been given the green light by Tudor experts and is as historically accurate as possible, while remaining a gripping piece of theatre.”
The Kentish Express