Dirty doings at the Tudor court of King Henry VIII during the 1520s-30s unfold in “Wolf Hall,” a two-play rendition of Hilary Mantel’s bestselling novels as performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Winter Garden, where the productions opened on Thursday.
Cogently adapted by Mike Poulton, the drama spins around Thomas Cromwell, a commoner who devotedly serves Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s chief advisor. During the socio-political hurricane that arises over Henry’s desire to replace his longtime consort, Katherine of Aragon, with the tempestuous Anne Boleyn – who promises to give the king a male heir – Wolsey is toppled from power.
In the aftermath, Cromwell rises to behind-the-throne eminence as Henry’s number-one fixer. Cromwell contends with a stubborn Katherine, manages the king’s finances, copes with Anne’s demands and assists in the nation’s stormy reformation from Catholicism to a Protestant state.