The story of Anne Boleyn staged in the Tower of London? Site-specific theatre might just have reached its peak: go back to your proscenium arches, companies, none of you will be able to top this.
Fallen in Love focuses on Anne’s relationship with her brother George, who was eventually executed two days before his sister after accusations of being the most scandalous of her lovers. It’s generally believed that Thomas Cromwell engineered Anne’s downfall to rid Henry VIII of his feisty second wife, and chose the men according to who it would be most politically useful to see on the scaffold – and was so sure his plot would succeed he didn’t even flinch at a charge of incest.
Joanna Carrick’s play shows us a devoted pair of siblings, united against a world determined to use them as pawns for social climbing – not even excluding their own father. George (Scott Ellis), the younger, is clearly besotted with his clever, spirited sister (Emma Connell); but in Anne’s early self it’s easy to think yes, wouldn’t any brother delight in such company? But there the line is drawn. No lascivious meddling with history here.
It’s performed under the 17th century beams of the New Armouries banqueting suite (so not quite contemporary) mere yards from where the pair were beheaded, 50 or so chairs placed around a bed, the only piece of set dressing. It’s about as intimate as it comes and it’s only later that you might think ‘well, that occasionally got a bit melodramatic’ because at the time it all makes effective, heightened, historically accurate Tudor sense. We’d also recommend handing over a fiver for the programme and play text and flicking through it beforehand: the play jumps forward through time between 1520 and 1536, and if you’re not super-familiar with the period you might end up wondering when you are. (It’s not like spoilers are an issue here.) If not, you can probably gauge the dates by the increasing sumptuousness of the Boleyns’ clothing and Anne’s foulness of temper.
Note: although the play is inside the Tower, a ticket doesn’t mean you get to wander around. Access to the grounds is only 30 minutes before the show starts, but that does allow a fair bit of gazing time. Plus, if you plump for one of the evening performances you’ll be there after the public has gone, for added atmosphere.
Fallen in Love takes place at the Tower of London May 18-19, 25-26, 31, June 1, 8-9, 13-16 at 3.30pm, 6.30pm, 9pm. Tickets £22-£32. For more information see the Fallen in Love website. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary press ticket.