Review Round Up: The Mirror and the Light, Gielgud Theatre

We round up the reviews for the third and final play instalment of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall Trilogy.

The Guardian: *** “It’s not that the play is lacking in wit or grace. Co-written by Mantel with its star, Ben Miles, it mines some of the novel’s best scenes: when a newly wed Jane Seymour (a nicely po-faced Olivia Marcus) complains about the unreasonable demands of her husband, Cromwell and her retinue squirm with embarrassment before the reason is revealed: he wanted her to ride with him to Dover to inspect the fortifications. But this is more an interlude than part of a dramatic engine.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “The Mirror and the Light, adapted by Mantel and her star Ben Miles, who has been quite remarkable in breathing life into the theatrical Cromwell, isn’t quite the success of its predecessors, even if the strength of the story and the playing make it a superior historical drama.”

Evening Standard: **** “Like the book, the play could do with a trim. The interweaving of families and factions is fiendishly complicated but even if you don’t know precisely who each character is, you always know whose side they are on and what they hope to gain. It’s populated by a huge, largely strong ensemble, though some performances stray into caricature.”

The Telegraph: **** “The novel’s 900 pages have been compressed into two and a half hours of hand-stitched drama that seamlessly captures high-level intrigue.”

Time and ***** “The action is pared back so that every element helps to rush Cromwell towards his fate, and this adds to its power. Mantel, who was present in the audience and appeared vividly interested and caught up in the production, has honed her craft of translating her stories to the stage. In the programme notes she praises the influence of co-writer Ben Miles, the actor who has brought Cromwell so convincingly to life in all three installments, saying it encouraged her “to explore Cromwell’s interiority”.”

The Times: ** “Audiobook listeners will know that, when time is short, it’s possible to cut corners by setting the playback button to a higher speed. The eagerly awaited stage adaptation of The Mirror and the Light, the final volume of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, generates a similar atmosphere. Too much history hurtles past.”

London **** “The result is a play that moves along well and is often compelling, especially thanks to Miles’s and Parker’s performances, but lacks the suspense and beauty of the novel.”

iNews: *** “There are modern resonances – the greasy pole of politics, the enduring divisions of class, tensions with Europe, the potency of lies and rumours – but they’re never belaboured. Instead, this is a brisk, colourful cavalcade: short on nuance, yet undeniably entertaining.”

The Arts Desk: ** “It’s counterintuitive to use the word simplistic of Mantel, but she herself is to blame for this superficial historical-tragical-comical tone. Literary and theatrical genius are not twins. Adapting her own book, in harness with Ben Miles, the actor who plays Cromwell in all three plays, Mantel has grabbed those marvellous characters whom she’d rescued from historical cliché, cut them out in cardboard and pasted them flat down again on the boards of the stage. Cromwell’s unique ascent climaxes in bathos rather than pathos.”

The Independent: ***** “For this third play, at the Gielgud Theatre, there has been a very intriguing change. The director is still Jeremy Herrin and the designer is still Christopher Oram, and the two of them once again rise to the challenge with extraordinarily insightful stage-craft. But the novel has been co-adapted by Mantel and Ben Miles, the actor who superlatively plays Cromwell throughout.”

Time Out: **** “the advantages of having the author at the helm (plus the perspective of the guy who had to read the 38-hour-long audiobook) are immediately apparent here. The book followed on directly from its predecessor, beginning in the aftermath of Anne Boleyn’s execution, and working forward to Cromwell’s own demise at the assent of his capricious monarch (Nathaniel Parker). Hare, Mantel/Miles feel empowered to tear up the chronology: it begins near the end, with Cromwell admitted to the Tower of London on charges of treason and heresy, squaring up to his enemies led by Nicholas Woodeson’s flinty Norfolk.”

The Stage: *** “Accomplished and engaging, if slightly functional, adaptation of the third instalment in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy.”

The Mirror and The Light will play at the Gielgud Theatre from the 23rd September until the 23rd January. To book your tickets click here or visit: Love Theatre.comTheatre Tickets DirectLondon Theatre DirectFrom the Box Office or Last

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