A Man for All Seasons

Robert Bolt
Mayflower, Southampton
(2005)

Not having time to study the programme prior to curtain up, I overlooked the fact that the lead role of Sir Thomas More in Michael Rudman's new production of Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons is played by Martin Shaw.

Granted that, for social reasons, I found myself with a party located in the upper reaches of the vast Mayflower Theatre, yet of all the players, it is Shaw who is generally unable to communicate beyond the front circle. I am assuming that patrons in those seats were able to follow dialogue that for us was largely unheard. Moreover, many of our equally baffled companions were students with acute hearing, so there is no problem there.

It is somewhat disconcerting to discover at the interval that this sotto voce Chancellor More is none other than BBC TV's Judge Deed, a man with a fine voice and much attraction to ladies of the Bar.

To see one's heroes crumble like this is disappointing. The more so as Clive Carter is a robust, full-throated Thomas Cromwell - yet he has spent as much time on the small screen as has Shaw.

The problem is that Bolt's play is a wordy piece at the best of times. To strain to capture a text full of the finer points of political and personal argument is a bit like attempting Prime Minister's Question Time with the volume down.

Paul Farnsworth gives us an Elizabethan set whence most of the key exchanges are delivered front of stage. And there is a splendidly vocal Tony Bell as the Common Man to fill in the gaps.

Alas, in a digital age when even the best actors seem to forget the meaning of projection, this is not enough.

Philip Fisher reviewed this production when it transferred to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole