Actors recreate Tudor England
WE can all reel off that rhyme about the wives of Henry VIII, but for most of us that is the extent of our knowledge about the many ladies in his life.
Howard Brenton's sprawling play, Anne Boleyn, sheds light on the wife for whom Henry defied the church, only to end their marriage by lopping off her beheaded.
West Glamorgan Youth Theatre Company takes up the account at Pontardawe Arts Centre on January 5, at 7.30pm.
The group's Vivienne Buckley says the account is an illuminating one. "Interestingly the play takes up the tale of Anne after she has been beheaded, so we see her life through the eyes of some of the historical figures who talk about her, like James 1."
The play finds that king rummaging through the possessions of the dead Queen Elizabeth I, Anne's daughter, and finding a evidence that Boleyn was a reckless religious conspirator, whose explosive ideas led to her downfall.
Vivienne says: "We get a very different view of Anne than the one we are used to hearing historically.
"Was she a victim of a cruel husband, or was she in some ways the architect of her own downfall?"
The youngsters who take on the play are joined by a former WGYTC pupil who has more recently plied his trade in the West End, on Billy Elliot, Rock of Ages, and most recently directing Jesus Christ Superstar.
Vivienne says she is delighted he has been keen to return to his roots to share his experience.
"It is good that people like Nick are happy to come back home to encourage other young people.
"And I know he has been impressed with the group's professional approach to rehearsals and to performing, which he says is often better in youth theatres than it is on the professional stage."
The lead role of Anne is taken by Carys Bowkett, with this being her first full-length play, and since it is performed by a cast aged 13 to 19 some of the bawdier aspects of life in Tudor England have been skirted around, says Vivienne.
"That is one of the challenges of putting on this play.
"It was a bawdy time and we have to keep in mind our young cast.
"Also the fact that the piece features real historical figures and many people will have preconceived ideas about who those people were and what they were like.
"We might be presenting them in a very different way but they need to be recognisable to the audience."