1. What got you interested in writing a play focusing on the relationship between Anne and George?
Originally my interest was in writing about Anne. I’ve always been mildly fascinated. There is a village very near here called Erwarton where Anne’s aunt and uncle lived and she visited them as a child. A school friend of mine lived in the hall and I went there a couple of times and was told stories about Anne haunting once a year. The Church in Erwarton has a legend that Anne’s heart was buried there and I was taken there quite often as a child. There’s a Boleyn Close and a Queen’s Head Pub in the village and so I suppose from an early age Anne has been a part of the landscape for me. My interest turned to writing a play about Anne, after having written a historical play about Thomas Clarkson, a most inspiring person who devoted himself to achieving the abolition of the slave trade. This project got me really fired up about history and bringing it to life for a diverse audience. Having decided to write about Anne, I read extensively about her life and visited historical sites. At Red Rose Chain I work with recovering heroin addicts and run a women’s group for women moving away from drug addiction and street prostitution. Four years ago, five women involved in street prostitution were horrific ally murdered in Ipswich and the work we do today was initiated in response to those events. The women I work with, all non-achievers at school, have been inspired by the Anne Boleyn story and have become known recently as The History Girls, becoming very knowledgeable about the subject and developing their own theories about what happened to Anne. In our discussions, the subject of George and the accusation of incest regularly came up and the girls explored the idea in historical and modern improvisations as well as discussions. I became fascinated by Anne and George’s relationship and why, if untrue, so many people believed the accusations. For a while I considered writing a play with four characters, Anne, George, Henry and Jane Parker but in time I realized that it was Anne and George I really wanted to portray and decided to create a two hander with the other characters off stage.
2. What, if anything, annoys you/delights you about how Anne has been represented in other works?
I haven’t in all honesty dwelt much on other interpretations recently, as I’ve been finding out as much as I can and trying to develop my own idea of Anne for some time now. What I don’t relate to is the “horrible histories” “let’s all enjoy a good beheading” approach. I’ve been trying to stretch out a hand over the last 475 years and emphasize the humanity we have in common.
3. Why do you think interest in Anne has blossomed over the past few years? Do you think Anne “speaks” to young women in some way?
I have certainly found this to be the case, working with my women’s group. Anne’s strength and modernity have made her extremely attractive to them, while her flaws of character seem to have endeared her even more. I think the intellectual parity of her relationship with Henry, coupled with her eventual total lack of equality with him makes her a feminist martyr to be celebrated and the act of celebrating her seems to me to empower young women today and especially those who have been victims of abuse and the sex industry.
4. I love the fact that Henry is “missing” in your play. Do you have any thoughts on his personality/character?
I don’t know where to begin! I also like the fact that he’s missing, because it enables the audience to create their own visions of him in their minds. At the end of the scene where Anne is about to marry Henry, both Anne and George turn and bow toward the door as music announces his approach and every night during the run the sense of excitement at this moment was palpable as the audience turned to see him, although of course he wasn’t really there. In rehearsals we worked on the idea of Henry a great deal. Both the characters impersonate him at different points and we needed to create a shared vision for them both. Personally I think he was utterly spoilt in the true sense of the word. A man with enormous abilities but totally corrupted by his own power and vanity.
5. What was the most challenging thing about writing about Anne?
Once I’d got the history right, it was developing a voice for her which sounded real, which had a sense of period about it but didn’t sound “cod” historical. I found myself imagining her sitting next to me in my car and got used to talking to her and showing her things.
6. Has anything surprised you about audience/critic responses to your play?
I’ve been delighted by the response. The opening night was a wonderful experience. There couldn’t have been anyone more scary turn up than Alison Weir – unless Anne herself had put in an appearance – and to get such an overwhelming endorsement from her has had a really significant impact on me. It was also such an amazing experience to actually see Alison enjoying the play so much! During the run, which played to over 2500 people the reaction just seemed to get better and better and we were inundated with letters and emails praising the show and urging us to take it on tour, which we are doing in 2012. People were very moved but also inspired by the ending. Lots of men cried!