Midnoght Theatre Collective

A Man for All Seasons
by Robert Bolt

Dates and Venue 25 January (preview 24 January) – 23 February 2008 @ 8pm | Pacific Theatre

Reviewer John Jane

Pacific Theatre continuing with a successful season, seems to have scored another winner with A Man for All Seasons. Director Jeremy Tow has put together a marvelously talented cast with barely a weak link, and the play itself -- despite a complex dialogue – moves along at an even pace.

Written in 1960, Robert Bolt’s play revolves around the much-chronicled, historical account of a former English Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More’s crisis of conscience and his subsequent (unjust) execution for high treason in denying The King's Supremacy.

Bolt’s drama was adapted for a critically successful film version in 1966 that had Paul Scofield as Thomas More, Robert Shaw as Henry VIII and a young Vanessa Redgrave as Anne Boleyn. As with the film, the way conflict between obedience to the monarchy and commitment to faith is depicted is where A Man for All Seasons truly excels.

Ron Reed is solid as history’s most famous fence-sitter. Reed makes his character thoroughly believable revealing a powerful intellect and a sardonic wit. William Sample is utterly engaging as the Common Man, providing a vinculum between the audience and production narrative; the function divided between the roles of More’s man servant, jailer, jurist and executioner.

Chris Humpreys is splendidly Machiavellian as the scheming Secretary Cromwell, but alas is less compelling in his secondary role as a dissolute Henry VIII. The king’s character gets little stage time but the casting of an actor specifically dedicated to the role may have offered more conviction in the pivotal scene with Thomas More.

The two female actors, Trish Pattenden as the superbly thrawn Lady Alice More and Evangela Dueck as Margaret, More’s doting daughter have somewhat less responsibility than the rest of the cast, but both make their time on stage count in the emotional prison scene in the second act.

Tracy Wright’s modern era costumes, aside from serving the interests of production economy, emphasis the piece as principally a political essay rather than a history lesson.

As with many Pacific Theatre productions, the set design is minimalist, yet creative. It largely consists of document pages shrewn on the floor in a rough circle and simple furniture shuffled around the stage according to the requirements of each scene.

In the programme’s Director’s Notes, Ron Reed draws attention to the irony of a play about the Reformation taking place in the basement of an Anglican Church. Today the church recognizes Thomas More as a martyr. He might have been bemused, even embarrassed at his eventual canonization, albeit 400 years after his death, but nonetheless, would be elated with the number colleges and schools that now bear his name.

© 2008 John Jane