Henry VIII - Press Archive - Ray's off his head in king of comedy role
Ray's off his head in king of comedy role
JULIET LAWRENCE WILSON
14 Oct 2003
I AM all for education on television. In fact, I think that is what television
should be for. This is just as well because for most of you who only have
four or five channels, it would be a bit too much to hope for actual
entertainment on your screens.
So you can imagine my delight when I saw that a historical drama was
coming to our screens at the weekend. Not only were we going to get
corsets and crotch boxes but some sex, violence and chopping off of
heads. And the one thing that I was looking forward to most was to see
history represented on the television without the presence of David
But on Sunday night, ITV excelled themselves in combining history,
not with drama, but with comedy.
In the first part of their Henry VIII series, we were treated to some of the
funniest lines in the history of television, my favourite being a beauty
from Anne Boleyn to Henry: "You wont go off me will you?"
Yet perhaps we shouldnt give too much credit to the scriptwriters.
Ray Winstone gave a performance worthy of a French and Saunders spoof,
playing Henry VIII with all the regality of a jar of jellied eels.
We must remember, however, that times were hard in those days and it
is entirely accurate that the king should be the only person around who
hasnt had time for elocution lessons.
Addressing the Monsignor (played by David Suchet, looking mightily p****d
off that they arent making Poirot any more), Ray Winstone had obviously
decided that the king of England had been the forerunner in the Australian
style of intonation: "My father gave me one wish? To have a son?"
Winstone then went on to do an impression of Frank Butcher from
EastEnders. "You drive a hard bargain, Anne," said he, by way of a
chat-up line to the lovely Anne Boleyn, played by Helena Bonham Carter,
who managed to get through the whole two hours without so much as a
text message from Merchant Ivory.
This line was for me the best informed of the whole lot, as my mothers
name is Anne so it is an oft heard declaration in the parental home.
Some sword fighting and jousting cheered the proceedings on. Furthermore,
everyone who was taken to be tortured was pretty adamant that they would
"admit nothing!" Which was fairly believable because post- torture they were
in such good condition that they looked as if they had just come back from
People in those days were obviously really hard. If you so much as waved a
pair of thumb screws in front of someones nose nowadays they would sing
like a bird.
Nobody seemed to mind an unjust demise either. Anne Boleyn positively
skipped up to her execution point. "They have brought in an expert
swordsman from France!" she trilled as if she was referring to a new pair
of earrings. Before she willingly posed in what one can only presume was
cheerful anticipation of getting her head lopped off, she urged the loyal
subjects to "forgive the king", forgetting to add on at the end that it
wasnt his fault he hadnt been to RADA.
Annes crime was apparently "fornication and treason". Which may sound
like a typical Saturday night to the rest of us but in those days was a very
bad thing. The shocking aspect of this programme was supposed to be
when Henry raped Anne Boleyn - an incident undocumented in history
but are we to presume that monarchs refrained from ravishing whomever
Anyway, Anne didnt seem that bothered and was obviously lying back and
thinking of the repeat fees.
The BBC should take note: we want more historical dramas. How about the
life and times of Elizabeth I, starring Barbara Windsor as the Virgin Queen
or Mary Queen of Scots with Elaine C Smith . . . or the Duke and Duchess
of Windsor with Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas?
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