See columns 3 and 4
(Second performance: Thursday at 7.30 p.m.)
(Tony Britton appears by permission of the Governors of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon)
by Clifford Bax
[Starring] Basil Sydney, Barbara Jefford and Tony Britton
In this, one of the finest historical plays written in modern times, Clifford Bax conducts a sympathetic and unerringly dramatic enquiry into the love of King Henry VIII for Katheryn Howard. The King's fourth marriage - with the pathetic and bewildered Anne of Cleves - has come to grief as the play opens, and Henry's questing eye has already been taken by another lady of the Court when he asks the young courtier, Thomas Culpepper: "Is her reputation as fair as her face?" The unhappy Tom, who is himself enamoured of Katheryn, acknowledges that it is; and it is at that moment, perhaps,that the King is falsely persuaded that he has found "the rose without a thorn."
The play is thereafter concerned with a royal passion, foolishly idealised, and doomed to tragedy because it knows no compromise with jealousy. Mr. Bax treats of Katheryn's dilemma, of her past failings and present indiscretions, with a delicate understanding. And he allows to the King as much dignity, sensitivity and charm as can be allowed to a man who avenged the wounds to his pride as a lover - as he rebuffed the challenges to his authority as a King - by a lavish recourse to the executioner's block.