Entertainment & Arts

Wolf Hall plays to take over theatre from Lloyd Webber musical

Ben Miles as Cromwell and Nathaniel Parker as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall Image copyright Keith Pattison
Image caption Ben Miles and Nathaniel Parker play Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII

The stage versions of Hilary Mantel's historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are to transfer to the West End theatre currently hosting Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical.

The early closure of Stephen Ward at the Aldwych enable the RSC productions to move to London at the end of their Stratford-upon-Avon run on 29 March.

Mantel told the BBC the transfer announcement had left her "buzzing".

Based on her Booker-winning novels, the plays begin their London run on 1 May.

Set in Tudor England, they tell of Thomas Cromwell, the commoner-turned-politician who became King Henry VIII's right-hand man.

The plays, which each last three hours and star Ben Miles as Cromwell and Nathaniel Parker as Henry, have enjoyed sell-out success in Stratford since opening in December.

"We're delighted to give more people the chance to see the production," Mantel, whose best-selling novels are also currently being adapted for the small screen, told the BBC News website.

"The RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) has historically pulled off some epic productions at the Aldwych, so for us it has worked out beautifully."

Image copyright PA/AP
Image caption Mantel won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2009 and again in 2012

Stephen Ward, Lord Lloyd Webber's musical about one of the key players in the Profumo scandal of the 1960s, announced last month it would be closing after disappointing ticket sales.

The show, which cost £2.5m to stage and received mixed reviews when it opened in December, will close after a West End run of less than four months.

In a statement, the Wolf Hall producers said they were "very grateful to Robert Fox Limited and the Really Useful Group for their generosity in enabling Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies to follow Stephen Ward at the Aldwych Theatre".

"Another production has helped us bring ours to London and we are grateful," said Mantel. "We've tried to make the process as smooth and productive as possible."

The two books have been adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton, with the plays directed by Jeremy Herrin, artistic director of the Headlong theatre company.

Their West End season, which runs until 6 September, will coincide with filming on the Wolf Hall TV series, in which Mark Rylance will play Cromwell.

Image copyright Nobby Clark
Image caption Alexander Hanson plays the title role in Stephen Ward opposite Charlotte Spencer's Christine Keeler

Mantel said there would be no crossover between the two incarnations: "The two projects are standing completely independently."

She also laughed off suggestions she might "do a Hitchcock" and make a cameo appearance in the BBC's six-part series, saying: "I think I'll stay on my side of the camera."

Mantel, 61, is currently working on the third instalment in her Cromwell saga, entitled The Mirror and the Light.

Before that she will publish a collection of 10 short stories called The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, due out September.

"The last six months have been like nothing else in my writing life," the author added. "I left my comfort zone far, far behind and I feel refreshed."

Booking for the West End run of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies opens on 10 March at 10:00 GMT.

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