Main Street Wolf Hall Delves Into the Power of Court Gossip in Henry VIII's Court

On one level, Wolf Hall  operates on a very high plane. After all, a lot of it concerns the establishment of the Church of England, aided in large part by its protagonist, Thomas Cromwell, minister to King Henry VIII.

And although Cromwell was known as a schemer, says Rebecca Greene Udden, artistic director of Main Street Theater, which is unveiling a regional premiere here in Houston later this month, he also "was a man who believes the gospel should be available to all people in English" (something that was anathema to the Roman Catholic Church of the time).

But really what a lot of Wolf Hall is about is power. How to get it and keep it. And as this play makes clear, one of the essential ingredients to accomplishing this was keeping up with the latest gossip – which ranged far beyond comments about the latest fashions. 

Cromwell rose from practically nothing to become one of the most powerful people in Henry's court. He aligned himself with Anne and later acted against her. 

Taken from the Hilary Mantel books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the play, Wolf Hall, Part I and Part II, “is a wonderful study of how your soul can get subverted even with the best of intentions,” says Udden. 

At the same time, she says, there’s a lot of humor as the king tries to rid himself of Catherine of Aragon so that he can move on to Anne Boleyn and then of course Jane Seymour and everyone else tries not to get hit by any shrapnel.

Cromwell is the play’s protagonist, rather than hero, Udden says. “He takes care of people, but he’s also a scorekeeper and a vengeful man and as the play goes on, the requirements of staying on top in the back-and-forth of the politics of the court begin to corrupt him pretty thoroughly.”

Performances are scheduled for October 22 through December 18. Part I will be performed for a week starting October 22, then Part II for a week starting October 29 and then the parts will alternate daily during the next weeks. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Main Street Theater – Rice Village, 2540 Times. For information call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com $36-$39 and $10 students with ID.

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