It is further evidence of how her double Man Booker
prize-winning books "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies", which
have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide, resonate for
modern audiences with their mix of political and sexual
The story of the matching and despatching of the king's wives -
and the resulting political earthquake as Henry breaks with Rome
to create a new Church of England - speaks across the ages,
according to Mantel.
"This is our national soap opera," she said in an interview.
"Henry is a monster king - a Bluebeard - with his wives and
their various fates. No-one else has a king who marries six
wives and executes two of them. It is one of our national
glories, you know."
The combined six-hour drama has just transferred to London's
West End after a sell-out run in Stratford-upon-Avon. The Royal
Shakespeare Company (RSC) production had its press night on
Saturday, winning more rave reviews.
There is also a BBC television version of the books in the
works, to be broadcast next year, with Mark Rylance as Cromwell
and "Homeland" star Damian Lewis as Henry VIII.
They now have their work cut out to better the RSC show, which
is played out on a stark set dominated by a giant cross that
underscores the religious backdrop of the plotting and love
matches going on the foreground.
The freshness of Mantel's approach comes from telling the
well-worn tale of Henry VIII through the lens of Cromwell, a
brilliant and multilingual politician, lawyer, businessman and
[to top of second column]
Cromwell rises from humble origins as a blacksmith's boy to become
richer, more powerful and more dangerous as the years advance, after
securing Henry his wished-for divorce from Katherine of Aragon and
overseeing the trial and execution of Anne Boleyn.
He is played on stage by Ben Miles, who makes him at once charming
and frightening - a truly morally ambiguous character in the murky
world of the Tudor court.
Miles describes him as "the original working-class hero". But he is
also "a man on the make", according to Mantel, who said she had
gained a deeper understanding of Cromwell from talking to Miles as
he got inside the character's head.
That is a big bonus for Mantel, who is still working on the third
book in her trilogy "The Mirror and the Light" - a project she says
remains a work in progress.
However, the fact that the final book is not yet written has not
stopped her and stage adapter Mike Poulton from thinking about the
next theatrical incarnation of Cromwell and the best way to hone
down the last section of the saga for the stage.
"The book will be finished when the book is finished, and then we
will think about a play - but we have written the first scene," said
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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