For many people, the adaptation of Booker Prize Winner Hilary Mantel's novel "Wolf Hall" has been long awaited and last night it was finally unveiled - with much fanfare, on BBC2 at 9pm.
Mantel's stream-of-consciousness novel, focussing on the life of Thomas Cromwell was one of the most popular reads of recent years and has once again brought interest in the Tudor court to the fore.
An inspired bit of casting features Mark Rylance playing the wily lawyer. Rylance is well known among lovers of Shakespeare as being one of the greatest performers of the bard's work in recent years. His nuanced performance here showed the steely nature of Cromwell's character, but not without emotion. The scenes in which he finds out his wife and daughters have all died of the sweating sickness were restrained, emotional and incredibly touching.
It wasn't just all about Rylance. There was stellar support from Jonathan Pryce as beleaguered Thomas Wolsey, Mark Gatiss as a wonderfully waspish Stephen Gardiner, Bernard Hill as Norfolk and a delightfully coquettish yet bitchy turn from Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn. Those wanting a glimpse of Damien Lewis as King Henry VIII had to wait until near the end of the episode to see how he fared. His scenes were restrained but showed the menace to come. This isn't going to be the traditional, bloated, corpulent performance that we've been used to seeing. Lewis will bring the real Henry to the fore.
The story flicks backward and forward through the years, making it, in some instances a little hard to follow and there were flashback scenes to Cromwell's harsh upbringing which were difficult to watch for their violence. However, this aside, it did not detract from the beautifully written script, direction and sets.
This adaptation really does show the BBC at its best, when it has a stellar cast and script to work with. The next five episodes are going to be well worth viewing. For those of us that know what ultimately happened to Cromwell, it will be a difficult watch, but this is, for me, the TV event of the year so far. #Television #Art