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Wolf Hall Parts 1 and 2

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Ambitious, Intelligent, Great writing
81
Critics
81
61 reviews
Members
81
51 reviews
 

Following rave reviews in the UK, the Royal Shakespeare Company brings this compelling two-part story of Thomas Cromwell's rise from blacksmith's boy to Henry VIII's chief fixer to Broadway.... Read more

Thomas Cromwell is a lawyer, family man and master politician, with a unique talent for courtly intrigue. He sees his rise as the right-hand man of Cardinal Wolsey. But managing to sidestep the other man's fall from grace is just the beginning for his personal agenda, which will take him into the very heart of power as adviser to Henry VIII and change the course of British history forever. These twisting and darkly comic show is a heady rumination on ambition, revenge and power.

 

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Reviews (112)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
81
Avg Score

95
The New York Times

"For the tastiest dish in town, you need to visit the Tudors of 'Wolf Hall,' the riveting two-part theater drama...The stage version is strictly for fun. That may sound like a weak recommendation to those who wear their brows high. But being fun in period costume for nearly five-and-a-half hours of live theater is no mean achievement. This was my third visit to 'Wolf Hall' and I found myself just as much in its thrall, and even more admiring of its accomplishment." Full Review

90
Time Out New York

"The Royal Shakespeare Company’s triumphant, blockbuster adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor-history novels...as much as the fact-crammed pageantry of 'Wolf Hall' maintains admirable clarity and pacing, it often lacks the sudden burst of lyricism or philosophical depth you find in the Bard. I’d have taken more poetry over plot... Still, as a fast-paced political thriller, it is fiendishly engaging." Full Review

85
Variety

"There’s nothing bookish about the highly theatrical approach taken in director Jeremy Herrin’s lucidly told, handsomely staged and emotionally charged production. In fact, it’s not bookish enough...Just when you expect the drama to move into deeper and darker political territory, it shrivels up and becomes what a lot of American kids took away from high-school history class — the salacious story of a horny king who chopped off his wives’ heads whenever he wanted a new bride." Full Review

60
New York Post

"The bad news is that the two plays that make up “Wolf Hall” will set you back six hours. Even worse is that they feel even longer. It’s amazing that a story jampacked with lust, betrayal, greed and violence can be so...dull. As well-acted, grandly staged and beautifully lit as it is, the show still manages to be tedious...That said, director Jeremy Herrin’s production looks smashing, especially the vast, mostly empty stage, framed by giant, brutalist-style concrete walls." Full Review

95
The Guardian (UK)

"These are flexible, actable, entertaining and serious plays, almost always very smart, hardly ever simply worthy. Jeremy Herrin keeps the action coming fast. The acting is lithe and purposeful...I suspect nearly all of us will be back in these seats in a few years time, eager to see – 500-year-old spoiler alert – the bloody conclusion." Full Review

50
DC Theatre Scene

"I realized that Part 1 was a shocking experience for me. But what shocked me was how dull I found it. After 30 scenes over nearly three hours, with the 23-member cast portraying some 40 characters who mostly just talk a lot, I was longing for a beheading or two...I found Part 2 only minimally more satisfying...There is no substitute for sharing the same air with a company of capable actors. But some adaptations simply work better than others." Full Review

90
The Huffington Post

"There's a rip-roaring, malevolently Machiavellian, viciously nasty, blood-letting saga of intrigue and incest on view just now. The cornucopian epic can be found at Broadway's Winter Garden, where the Royal Shakespeare Company's impressively adventurous production of Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall' has set up shop...The RSC 'Wolf Hall' offers an evening--or, rather, two evenings--of live, inventively rousing theatricality." Full Review

85
Broadway Blog

"Poulton has packed as many incidents from the novels as possible into his adaptations, compressing the events into an accessible narrative that moves rapidly yet keeps you involved in what could easily be a confusing mélange of characters and events...Sitting through these event-filled plays over the course of a long day can be a bit of a slog. But when it’s over, you’ll remember them for their high-quality theatrics, and their ability to make history (fictionalized as it may be) both real a... Full Review

40
The Wall Street Journal

"I haven’t read either of the much-praised novels, nor am I a scholar of 16th-century England. I can, however, assure you that Mr. Poulton’s 51/2 -hour stage version of “Wolf Hall,” is competent but dullish, a procession of short, choppy scenes in which nobody ever says anything more memorable than “Bring up the bodies!” The acting is as devoid of sparkle as the script...“Wolf Hall” is not without merit...But stick it out to the end and you’ll likely wish you’d rented “A Man for All Seasons” ... Full Review

45
AM New York

"Although full of intrigue and cruel twists of fate, 'Wolf Hall' is a stiff, step-by-step, plodding march through English history, leaving little space for character development. One-liners and broad jokes have been added in that inappropriately contradict the ominous tone. 'Wolf Hall' is incomplete as a narrative. Perhaps they should have waited for Mantel to finish all of her books before doing this onstage." Full Review

80
The Hollywood Reporter

"Majestic in scope if slightly reductive in execution...While it might fall short of the pantheon of all-time great stage events, 'Wolf Hall' is nonetheless an impressive feat, a compelling drama played out across the canvas of a nation soaked in rain and mud and blood...This version might be simplified and light on psychology, it's accessible and consistently engrossing." Full Review

70
New York Magazine / Vulture

"Part 1 begins with a dance: a court entertainment that introduces some of the major players and themes. The ensuing drama, directed by Jeremy Herrin as tautly as possible, is interspersed with jousts, hunts, investitures, pantos, and — especially in part two — executions...For all its insights, this is not the kind of play that offers much psychology...The stage production is more of a pageant, visually beautiful but a little flat...mostly what we have is an extremely elegant Tudor soap opera." Full Review

90
New York Daily News

"The plays retrace 1500s political intrigue in Henry’s house of cards. The English history comes alive with crisp and plainspoken urgency. Jeremy Herrin directs a crackerjack cast from the Royal Shakespeare Company in a spare production... The pacing drags a bit because we’re awaiting the twist we know is coming. And the show could stand to fire more emotions. But this excellent ensemble shines." Full Review

80
Newsday

"This prestige event of the Broadway season offers straightforward storytelling, finely wrought performances and yards upon yards of magnificent 16th century costumes... Despite the feral titles, the plays offer more steady elegance than wild passion...It is hard not to wish for something deeper from all those hours onstage." Full Review

95
NorthJersey.com

"The story is vividly, precisely and – particularly in the first part – briskly told, with bursts of unexpected humor...Working with a large, opulently costumed cast, director Jeremy Herrin has superbly theatricalized the storytelling, blending one scene rapidly into the next. You might know where the journey's headed, but the trip is engrossing." Full Review

90
The Wrap

"Well worth the six-hour investment...The swirl of characters and incidents is so intense that watching 'Wolf Hall' turns theatergoing into grandiose scorekeeping...That shift of power from Henry to Cromwell is when 'Wolf Hall' genuinely begins to fascinate, and it continues to fascinate well into 'Bring Up the Bodies'...in this age of 90-minute two-handers, who can complain about watching 23 talented actors being expertly traffic-directed?" Full Review

95
The Associated Press

"The Royal Shakespeare Company's stunning, addictive and clever adaptation. After six hours of "Part One" and "Part Two," there were impatient people leaving the Winter Garden Theatre waiting for "Part Three."...Adapted by Mike Poulton, the two parts are connected by modern English, gallows humor, ghosts who chat with the living and by everyone complaining about the rain. One part alone stands by itself but this adaptation is like a bag of chips. Can you stop with just one?" Full Review

100
NY1

"'Wolf Hall' is a magnificent undertaking, as expansive as it is lean. It is history brought to pulsing, highly animated life...The play's creative team deserves high praise as we're left wanting more, even after nearly six hours covering some 1200 pages. We are only introduced to three of Henry's six wives in these plays. I cannot wait for this excellent troupe to bring up the other three!" Full Review

80
Reflections in the Light

"Particularly fresh in this adaptation are most of the characters, seen from Cromwell”s perspective...If you are a fan, you will enjoy the chats about England’s history taking place in and around the theater. If you aren’t up on the history of this period, you might become very confused." Full Review

65
StageZine

"Although the two shows are historically accurate and director Jeremy Herrin keeps the action moving fluidly, we leave the theater expecting more from the Royal Shakespeare Company... Unfortunately, as ambitious as 'Wolf Hall' is because it is such an epic, and despite its accessibility, it is ultimately mediocre... Some fans of the travails of the British monarchy from past to present may feel they have learned nothing new after sitting through this entertaining but curiously unsatisfying ma... Full Review

80
Front Row Center

"This reworking is much less effective onstage than it was in the novel...Regardless, there is good reason to rejoice. The company assembled here is a joy to watch, and the number of riveting performances given in Wolf Hall is off the charts. The staging by Jeremy Herrin is exceptionally good...The excellent first part of Wolf Hall hurtles by; those attending a double performance should finish your meal with a strong cup of coffee before you head back to the theatre for round two." Full Review

80
Drama Queen NYC

"At its best, this version carries you along like the trashiest soap...Thank goodness that 'Wolf Hall' sustains that suspenseful, brisk pace for much of its long running time. Those moments when the pace slackens are truly dangerous, as one may be lulled into an exhausted sleep...The material seems more suited to the kind of context that long-form television is much better at providing. So, recommended, but by no means essential theater-going." Full Review

75
NJ.com

"So much must be explained that the play can feel too close to a timeline, with much of its first act spent dealing with exposition...'Part Two: Bring Up the Bodies' is far more successful in portraying the political intrigue and its multifaceted characters." Full Review

90
Vogue

"Ripping, juicy, two-part, five-and-a-half-hour adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s bestselling novels of Tudor-era intrigue... For sex, betrayal, revenge, murder, political gamesmanship, and melodramatic reversals of fortune, House of Cards has nothing on these plays...These productions winnow the books’ surfeit of characters, locales, and twisty plot lines into a propulsive, riveting afternoon and evening of theater...gripping, entertaining, and deeply satisfying." Full Review

90
Entertainment Weekly

"It’s worth every minute...The Royal Shakespeare Company’s outstanding production does justice to the revered Hilary Mantel novels while also offering its own intriguing spin on the oft-retold historical drama...'Wolf Hall' is remarkably efficient in streamlining the Mantel novels down to their most exciting essence, making the play’s pace seem much swifter than six hours. The immensely talented actors manage to make every backroom deal, courtier spat, and royal tantrum fully enjoyable." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
81
Avg Score

85
Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you are fascinated by English history, or more specifically the Tudor era.

Don't see it if you won't, it closed.

79
Great acting, Masterful, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you enjoy the Tutor period and masterful acting

Don't see it if you want a modern play; both parts on one day is a lot for anyone

96
Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Riveting, Great writing

See it if You want to see an epic play with great dialog, great acting, and great drama.

Don't see it if You can not sat through a long play and are not willing to see both long parts. You do not like drama.

50
Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated, Slow

See it if you're really into English history.

Don't see it if you're not familiar with English history.

76
Absorbing, Epic, Great acting, Masterful, Great staging

See it if you are familiar with Wolf Hall from television and desire to see the saga live.

Don't see it if you like shows that take place in modern day and aren't up for both parts.

84
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if enjoy historical stories that take place during the Tudor time period. This production had a wonderful cast.

Don't see it if you do not enjoy historical timepieces or are looking for a lighthearted show.

95
Absorbing, Ambitious, Epic, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if You are interested in history, or like plots that are complicated and involve lots of backstabbing.

Don't see it if You don't have the patience for a six-hour play or are not interested in history.

85
Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Classic, Compelling

See it if if you have lots of time, patience, and appreciate history and costumed theatre. Was worth it.

Don't see it if You have no patience.

87
Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you enjoy excellent Shakespeare productions

Don't see it if you don't like very long plays - I saw both parts in one day

76
Clever, Great acting, Intense, Resonant, Great staging

See it if If you like Shakespeare but are looking for something a little more acessible. You like British history. Costumes, staging were intelligent.

Don't see it if You don't want to deal with a huge story and cast. Must concentrate, it's a lot to follow. You're brand new to the history of the period.

80
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Slow

See it if you love Tudor history. Great, accurate costumes. Fabulous English actors. Some great directing/staging choices for a spare set.

Don't see it if Part II is definitely weaker. Ambitious, but too much story crammed in. Cradle dance!?!

89
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Great writing

See it if you enjoy the history of the Tudors; seeing only Part 1 would have been enough; exquisite acting and character development

Don't see it if you cannot sit through long history plays

84
Ambitious, Epic, Confusing, Overrated, Entertaining

See it if You're very interested in British royalty and politics from earlier eras.

Don't see it if You can't stand history plays.

80
Absorbing, Enchanting, Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You like period pieces, great acting, great writing. Liked it more than I thought I would.

Don't see it if Don't like period pieces, have trouble understanding accents, hate poofy dresses.

90
Absorbing, Ambitious, Epic, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You love historical plays that totally captivate and transport you to another time and place.

Don't see it if You only like modern day dramas.

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you want strong acting, enjoy period pieces, & like political & emotional intensity.

Don't see it if you're tired of Henry VIII, want something fast-paced, or have a short attention span.

93
Original, Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if you want to witness masterful acting and intelligent insights into politics and human behavior

Don't see it if you need a show that's short!! or unchallenging. This thing is about nothing less than power and the birth of modern England.

95
Ambitious, Intelligent, Riveting, Great writing

See it if love history and want to get insight into Cromwell, Henry vII's puppeteer. Brilliant writing and acting.

Don't see it if You don't like plays with a lot of historical details.

85
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Riveting

See it if you like sprawling historical dramas.

Don't see it if you hate costume drama.

65
Great acting, Intense, Slow, Decent, Boring at times

See it if You are a fan of period pieces and the subject matter.

Don't see it if You aren't too familiar with the subject matter, at times it can be hard to follow and slow.

85
Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Masterful, Great writing

See it if you like historical and period pieces. Superb acting. Riveting even though you know the ending.

Don't see it if don;t like slower paced shows

65
Epic, Great acting, Slow, Dated, Great staging

See it if you love British history and clever staging in that Shakesperean manner.

Don't see it if you want a more in depth look despite the 2-play running time that still feels rushed and abbreviated and old fashioned.

78
Clever, Intelligent, Overrated, Slow, Witty

See it if you're a Britphile, like the more boring offerings of Masterpiece Theatre, have 6 hours to kill, or have a massive crush on Nathaniel Parker

Don't see it if any of the above doesn't describe you.

78
Absorbing, Ambitious, Epic, Thought-provoking

See it if you like history, intrigue and disaster.

Don't see it if you find historical drama boring.

80
Absorbing, Epic, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Pleasantly surprising

See it if the thought of who gets to define religion and why is fascinating to you (Part 1 in particular).

Don't see it if 5 hours of a play is overwhelming to you.