A starring role in television’s new historical drama

Programme Name: Wolf Hall - TX: n/a - Episode: Behind the Scenes (No. BTS) - Picture Shows:  Peter Kominsky (Director), Thomas Cromwell (MARK RYLANCE) - (C) Company Productions Ltd - Photographer: Giles Keyte
Programme Name: Wolf Hall - TX: n/a - Episode: Behind the Scenes (No. BTS) - Picture Shows: Peter Kominsky (Director), Thomas Cromwell (MARK RYLANCE) - (C) Company Productions Ltd - Photographer: Giles Keyte

It’s one of the most eagerly-awaited television dramas of the new year and eagle-eyed Banburyshire viewers have extra reason to stay glued to Wolf Hall.

The BBC’s star-studded adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies starts next Wednesday evening.

The six-part series has been filmed entirely on location, with our very own Broughton Castle among those chosen to give an air of authenticity to this Tudor drama.

It’s not the first time Broughton has been thrust into the limelight for directors looking for historic settings and when the Wolf Hall crew landed it also offered the chance for celeb spotters to catch a glimpse of the star names like Damian Lewis – who plays Henry VIII – out-and-about in the area.

Hilary Mantel was already an award-winning novelist when Wolf Hall was published in 2009, but this and 2012’s Bring Up The Bodies achieved a new degree of success, with a third part still in the offing.

The dramatic content of her version of Cromwell’s story, set against the backdrop of a turbulent time in British history, had obvious potential to be transferred to stage and screen and the RSC and BBC quickly came calling.

The RSC presented the two books as separate plays in its 2013-14 winter season with Ben Miles as Cromwell.

It quickly sold out and then transferred to the Aldwych Theatre for a run which was due to finish in September 2014 but was extended for another four weeks due to the demand for tickets.

By this time the word was out about the BBC version – filming took place between May and July last year – and the anticipation was growing about its appearance on the small screen.

Trailers started appearing just after Christmas with the confirmation it would start at 9pm next Wednesday, January 21.

For some, the thought of two substantial novels being reduced to six, one-hour episodes could be troubling but it has the blessing of the author.

She said: “My expectations were high and have been exceeded: in the concision and coherence of the storytelling, in the originality of the interpretations, in the break from the romantic clichés of the genre, in the wit and style and heart.

“The spirit of the books has been extraordinarily well preserved. The storytelling is fast and fluid, the characters compelling, the tone fits that of the novels,

“Mark Rylance gives a mesmeric performance as Cromwell.”

Executive producer Colin Callender gave a taste of what is ahead: “I was captivated by Hilary Mantel’s provocative portrait of Thomas Cromwell – a figure from history traditionally portrayed as a two dimensional henchman but who in Hilary’s brilliant hands becomes a rich, complicated and enigmatic character.

“A man of lowly birth, navigating the deadly politics of the Tudor court and the moral complexities that accompany the exercise of power.

“Just as Hilary reinvigorated the historical novel, her books have provided us with the opportunity to reinvigorate the historical television drama. Modern audiences are interested in characters on both sides of the moral equation and in Cromwell we have a man trapped between his desire to do what is right and his instinct to survive.

“In truth it is a very contemporary story, a story of power, loyalty and betrayal that just happens to be about people 500 years ago.”