Three things you might not expect of the RSC’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor novels. First, Mike Poulton’s plays have some great jokes. Laugh-your-head-off funny, you might say. Second, although Tom, Dick and Mary tell me they found Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies a more enjoyable read, Wolf Hall is the better play. Finally, the reinvention of the brutal Thomas Cromwell as someone you would have liked is, in the plays, a source of weakness as much as strength.
Not that these are weak plays: six hours is a long time to spend on a theatre seat, yet I would happily see these plays back-to-back again tomorrow. They are beautifully staged, and many simple, wonderfully lit images linger in the memory: a funeral in the snow, a barge being rowed silently down the Thames in the rain.