‘Exhilarated’ Hilary Mantel plans theatre encore – once third Cromwell novel is ‘on paper’
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Thursday 06 March 2014
Hilary Mantel has hinted she will produce more work for the theatre after an “exhilarating six months” working on the stage adaptations of her novels about Thomas Cromwell, but she wants to finish the much-anticipated third book first.
The theatre adaptations of Mantel’s two Man Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are set to transfer from Stratford-upon-Avon to London’s West End this spring, it was announced yesterday.
The author said her priority was “getting the third book on paper” in reference to the third Cromwell novel The Mirror and the Light, “but I wouldn’t say working in the theatre again will not happen.”
The books were adapted by Mike Poulton, and Mantel suggested that further work in the theatre could be another adaptation: “I would love to work with Mike again, he’s a brilliant adapter; I’ve learnt so much from him.” The third book will almost certainly be produced for the stage.
Mantel said: “The theatre is a great love of mine. And I’ve often thought my books are actually gigantic out-of-control plays, or huge, huge shooting scripts. It’s wonderful to take that side of your work and run with it.”
The first dramatisation of the two novels about the rise of Cromwell from a blacksmith’s son to chief adviser to Henry VIII opened at the Swan Theatre in Stratford in December, with most of the tickets selling out before opening night. It will open in the Aldwych Theatre in the West End on 1 May.
Mantel said she had been “very much an insider” on the two productions, which were directed by Jeremy Herrin. “I’ve had the privilege of being deeply involved in the evolution and the progression of the shows.”
She said the experience had been a “huge learning curve” before continuing: “It has been probably the most exhilarating six months of my writing career and the one in which I’ve learnt the most and had the most fun.”
Poulton worked with Mantel for over three years on the project and he described the collaboration as “extremely happy and close”.
Ben Miles as Thomas Cromwell in the stage adaptation of ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel
“The complexity of the material meant adapting the books was a huge challenge,” she said. “What helps is I’m very visual as a writer and I tend to privilege action and dialogue rather than introspection.”
Much of the dialogue in the play is straight from the books.
The two novels have sold 1.8 million copies in the UK and 1.2 million copies in America. Bring Up the Bodies became the first Booker Prize winner to make it in the top 10 of the most borrowed books at the library, according to the official numbers compiled by Public Lending Right.
She would not commit to a finish date as “my involvement with these productions has been far greater than I expected. But I’ve been repaid for every moment I’ve put in because of the insights I’ve got daily.”
Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies will also be adapted for television by the BBC starring Mark Rylance as Cromwell.
Mantel said: “If I go back five years in my writing career, I had a small group of readers who were very precious to me. I had steady but never spectacular sales. My critical reputation was way in advance of my sales.
“Suddenly we’d broken down this barrier that’s perceived to exist between the literary novel and big sales and we haven’t done it by compromising the material.”
The books have proved hugely popular partly because of the ongoing fascination with the Tudors. “It’s something that goes really deep into our national psyche. It’s a period of nation-making, of self-definition but on the human level we have this fantastic story that you couldn’t make up,” Mantel said.
“Henry VIII is a monster, but he’s our monster. No other nation has a king who had six wives and cut the heads off two. We’re perversely proud of Henry.”
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food