Shakespeare gets sole credit for this late play on the front of the Shakespeare's Globe programme, though it acknowledges that John Fletcher was probably responsible for much of it. As it's so rarely performed, I wish I could say I enjoyed this production more than I actually did. Never having seen it before and never having read it, I can't say whether the play is irredeemably flawed by its lack of real characterisation and dramatic action, or whether Mark Rosenblatt's direction is at fault. In the Guardian Michael Billington commented that the director didn't seem to fully trust the text, and this seems to me spot on.
There's a lot of what used to be called 'business' in this production which doesn't seem to flow naturally from the text, and the blocking and movement often seem out of kilter with the action and the words. There are a lot of good performances by individual actors, particularly Dominic Rowan as Henry. The man with six wives (only two in this play) is however an unrewarding part, because the exigencies of Jacobean politics, even after the death of Elizabeth I, seem to have made it impossible for Shakespeare to paint his dark side. Ann Boleyn has only a small role, while the rejected Katherine of Aragon brings the play to life when Henry rejects her. Kate Duchene's spirited performance in this trial scene hit the mark, but her final scene at the end of the play was grossly overacted. Amanda Lawrence (the incomparable tea-lady from the stage version of Brief Encounter) is a performer I would love to see again at the Globe in a better role. Peter Hamilton Dyer (Norfolk) and other Globe stalwarts are beautifully clothed in Tudor finery, and the director doesn't shy away from the pageantry.
Perhaps the play really is as lifeless as it seemed on Wednesday night, but I can't help feeling that a really first rate director might have done more with it.