Chase the Lady. March 2015.

Dear Rowley,

What with the helmeted swarm of Lycra and rage otherwise known as cyclists and the droids in headphones marching towards Holborn tube, London’s streets at rush hour are turning into The Hunger Games. I’m black and blue having been beaten like a piñata on the way to Waitrose for crispy duck and hard liquor.

Any road there I was palely loitering in Waitrose Holborn by the spring daffodils waiting to be served when a teenage oik in a parka and sunglasses (?!) barged past knocking me sideways with a rucksack the size of a Fiat Punto. Despite showing a distinct ineptitude at the self-service check-out he didn’t remove his headphones while a lovely girl tried to assist. He was in such a bait and a hurry that he left his card in the machine. Needless to say Nemesis here didn’t raise the alarm and off he popped.

Here’s the dilemma. Perhaps the chap was rushing to visit a loved one at Tommy’s and, on arrival, didn’t have the plastic to buy the requisite bunch of grapes and copy of Grazia. But then again the mark of good manners is showing consideration for others at all times and Olympian grace under pressure. Why one wonders do nine out of ten Londoners feel compelled to have a personal soundtrack playing as they walk the streets? Those wretched machines are an audio lobotomy severing the senses from the sounds of the city.

Granted, there are many many instances when the city sounds are traumatising not least the incessant wail of sirens, roar of engines and the hell of drilling. Similarly there are times when I wish I still smoked to mask the rank stench of the secretary bathed in enough Angel to gas a badger or Eau de Leicester Square kebab shop. Having visited the National Portrait Gallery recently with fashion historian Judith Watt for the magnificent Sargent exhibition and a touch of the Tudors I do think a jewelled pomander filled with scents and spices might be just the ticket for Soho after midnight.

Speaking of Tudors, I did promise you the votes from Bloomsbury Square on the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall. I must admit that in six hours the RSC’s stage version was much more amusing and compelling. Historical accuracy is not the point for either version. The question is how they presented Hilary Mantel’s interpretation of Thomas Cromwell’s story.

Television captures every tremor of every eyelid making Mark Rylance’s still, strong interpretation of Cromwell particularly exposed. I found the vulnerability of the character overplayed and Claire Foy’s peevish, moon-faced Anne Boleyn almost wilfully void of the charisma and sex appeal the woman must have possessed to turn Christendom on its head for love.

Much has been made of veracity in the locations, lighting and costume for the BBC Wolf Hall. For the most part the candlelight was so weak that they could have shot the Whitehall Palace scenes in an NCP car park and we’d have been none the wiser. The costumes were drab and ill-fitting to the point of wilfully breaking the spell of the deadly romance that drove Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

When Anne Boleyn, a woman schooled in French fashion, is depicted wearing an ill-fitting bodice entirely covering the ‘pretty duckies’ beloved by the King and skirts that hung from the waist like damp rags you know it is the BBC up to its old tricks draining pleasure from a production in the name of historical accuracy. I choose not to believe that Anne Boleyn ever dressed to disadvantage.

The costumes in the RSC Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies plays were glorious and more akin to the Richard Burton/Genevieve Bujold film Anne of the Thousand Days released in 1969. True lovers of the Anne Boleyn who has continued to bewitch us all for centuries agree that Bujold’s performance is definitive. She not only looked the part, she entirely inhabited the role which may go some way to explaining why Genevieve never bettered Anne of the Thousand Days.

Anne of the Thousand Days began as a stage play and should perhaps be revived if an actress could be found to rival Genevieve Bujold. I happen to think the RSC production’s Anne, Lydia Leonard, had the chops to do it. I could not get her out of my mind when watching Claire Foy in the BBC adaptation. There were scenes between Leonard and Ben Miles as Cromwell performed on stage that left the BBC interpretation lacking. Anne and Cromwell were reluctant allies who earned each other’s admiration.

I didn’t get the sense that Rylance and Foy found the contradictory love and hate that Hilary Mantel wrote into the characters. Much can be left unsaid on film but far too much was presumed by the BBC adaptation not least familiarity with a story that you and I know inside out but many do not. This is perhaps why the HBO series The Tudors was such a commercial if not critical success.

Don’t know about you Rowley but I have a lot of time for The Tudors. Granted, the entire cast was young and gorgeous, the history was patchy at best and the truth to period was wilfully ignored in the design. However I think Jonathan Rhyce Meyers wiped the floor with Damien Lewis as Henry VIII. He played Henry as a bombastic psychopath and what I may ask is wrong with that?

Laurels must be laid to Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn. She had much more screen time than Bujold or Foy put together and entirely convinced as a beguiling sorceress who played the game at the highest stakes and only lost on a technicality apropos an inability to bear a male heir. Dormer had the luxury of an hour depicting her preparation for death and another hour for her execution by the sword. She was subtle, nuanced and when required magnificent. So my award for Best Actress as Anne Boleyn goes to Natalie Dormer. End of.