History? Pah. Bring on the sexBy Mike Jennings
August 13, 2008
Friday, BB2, 9pm
If you’re tuning into The Tudors expecting a traditionally stuffy historical drama, then you’ll be surprised: there’s plenty of drama and excitement that’s more akin to EastEnders than Price and Prejudice.
In this second episode, Christmas is in full swing – although it’s a little more restrained than the usual modern festivities.
Henry the VIII and Anne Boleyn – Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Reading-born Natalie Dormer – sit on their thrones as they’re presented with gifts from all over the world.
The rest of the show ramps up the drama, thankfully.
Henry’s demanding an annulment which is stirring up feeling within the powerful Catholic church – it’s a genuine power struggle between the strongest organisation in the land and the monarch, and you can be sure that many heads will roll as the series goes on.
The beginning of the famous Reformation is played out around the usual trappings of court – dances, dinners and formal ceremonies – that are brilliantly handled, with grudging acceptance, by the various characters.
You can sense that they’d rather get back to the meatier plot that lurks beneath all the pomp and circumstance of wearing posh clothes and being polite.
This episode, like the rest, was full of fantastic performances.
Rhys Meyers dominates the program, his Henry VIII never entirely blameless, but never anything less than utterly captivating. Charismatic and powerful, it’s hard to think of anyone who could better portray the young king.
Local girl Natalie Dormer is superb as Anne Boleyn, slowly coming to the realisation that her failure to provide the king with a male heir will soon result in a swift beheading.
Jeremy Northam is great as Thomas More and Peter O’Toole just as good as the Pope Paul III.
In fact, there’s hardly a poor performance in sight, with this joint British and American production bringing the best out of the entire cast.
The only complaint is that genuine history buffs may get a little annoyed with the lack of actual history: several facts have been brushed aside in favour of the show’s narrative.
For instance, Henry didn’t actually marry Anne until far later in life than is portrayed here.
It’s nothing to really get fussed about, though, when the show is so entertaining.
A little historical inaccuracy is a small price to pay for a superb Tudor-period drama that injects some welcome excitement into what is normally such a pedestrian genre.