Reviewed by David Smith
Therry took on a significant challenge with this powerful James Goldman play, and did it justice. Experienced director Megan Dansie ensured the cast maintained the intensity of the intrigue in Henry II’s family and court.
The absorbing and ever-changing relationship between Henry and his wife, Eleanor, is critical. Matthew Randell and Celine O’Leary explored every delicious bit of their combative, yet at times funny and tender, exchanges. Randell blossomed in Act 2 and was all that Henry should be – on some occasions scheming, and at others vulnerable. O’Leary was a commanding figure, bringing a regal presence to her role. Her timing was exceptional, especially with her witty and occasionally understated retorts to Henry’s barbs and thrusts. Together they succeeded in exploring the subtlety of the power shifting between them.
Ellie McPhee impressed as Alais, betrothed to Henry’s son, but at the same time Henry’s mistress. Her Alais had the strength to bring out her own character, even in the imposing presence of Henry and Eleanor. Nick Duddy was convincing as Henry’s youngest son, John, while Jonathan Pheasant and Aaron McDonald clearly drew out the contrasts between the older brothers, Richard the Lionheart and Geoffrey of Brittany.