'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring Up the Bodies' Headed to London's West End
Could the Royal Shakespeare Company and playwright Mike Poulton’s critically acclaimed dramatization of the best-selling Hilary Mantel historical novels be bound for Broadway next?
NEW YORK – After wowing critics and selling out in the premiere run that began late last year at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s home base in Stratford-upon-Avon, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies will transfer to London’s West End.
The limited engagement begins performances May 1 at the Aldwych Theatre, and is scheduled to run through Sept. 6, with an official press opening on May 17.
Directed by Jeremy Herrin, the companion-piece plays were adapted by Mike Poulton from Hilary Mantel's acclaimed historical novels, which trace the political rise to power of Thomas Cromwell from blacksmith’s boy to right-hand man of Henry VIII in the Tudor court.
“Mike Poulton has done an outstanding job in turning the books into two epic three-hour plays that, in Jeremy Herrin’s RSC production, make for a gripping piece of narrative theatre,” wrote Michael Billington in The Guardian.
Mantel’s novels won her the prestigious Man Booker Prize twice, in 2009 and 2012. They have gone on to become international best-sellers, with 1.8 million copies sold in the U.K. and 1.2 million in the U.S. to date.
The West End run will be produced by Matthew Byam Shaw, Nia Janis and Nick Salmon for the RSC, and by Tulchin Bartner and Georgia Gatti for Playful Productions, which commissioned the adaptations.
Much of the original Stratford company will transfer to London, including Ben Miles as Cromwell, Nathaniel Parker as Henry VIII, Lydia Leonard as Anne Boleyn, Paul Jesson as Cardinal Wolsey and Lucy Briers as Katherine of Aragon.
Given that the production is following the trajectory of the RSC’s last breakout commercial hit, the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, theater insiders are speculating that a Broadway move may be the next step for the plays.
Mantel’s novels are also being adapted by writer Peter Straughan into a six-part BBC television miniseries starring Mark Rylance as Cromwell, which is set to air in the U.S. under the Masterpiece banner on PBS.