Review Round-up: The Mirror and the Light, Gielgud Theatre

It’s here at last – the third and final part in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, the Mirror and the Light. There’s a lot of hype about the RSC production due to the huge success of the the previous two shows, Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies, as well as the obvious success of the books and TV series, which starred Mark Rylance and Damien Lewis.

Ben Miles as Thomas Cromwell. Photo: Tristram Kenton

This time Hilary Mantel has teamed up with actor Ben Miles, who returns to play Cromwell, to co-write the script. What did the critics make of their attempts?

The Guardian ★★★☆☆

“But all good things come to an end, and the evidence of this third and final play is that the spell is broken. We know that Cromwell’s failure to broker a successful fourth marriage for Henry, to Anna of Cleves, will lead to his execution. But this biographical inevitability sucks the life out of the project, returning the Tudor court to a parade of stuffed doublets. There are seven of them on stage within minutes of the curtain rising on Jeremy Herrin’s production, and it took most of the first half to work out which was which.”

The Times (paywall) ★★☆☆☆

“Audiobook listeners will know that, when time is short, it’s possible to cut corners by setting the playback button to a higher speed. The eagerly awaited stage adaptation of The Mirror and the Light, the final volume of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, generates a similar atmosphere. Too much history hurtles past.”

Evening Standard ★★★★☆

“Completing a magnificent theatrical hat-trick, actor Ben Miles and director Jeremy Herrin bring Hilary Mantel’s third and final novel about Henry VIII’s fixer Thomas Cromwell triumphantly to the stage. This is an urgent, propulsive journey through the dense thickets of Tudor court politics, and a wider rumination on what happens when indispensability becomes a liability rather than an asset. Herrin directs with admirable clarity and economy, and the narrative is powered forward by Miles as the upwardly mobile Cromwell and by Nathaniel Parker’s capricious man-child king.”

The Telegraph (paywall) ★★★★☆

“This conventional, period-dressed affair will look like a stuffy throwback to a bygone era of theatrical endeavour to some. Yet it seems hand-stitched to delight those who love historical drama served up without a heavily mediating modernity or, that increasing bane, woke-inflected judgmentalism. ”