THE familiar characters of Elizabethan times come to life in Mike Poulton’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, directed by Nick Sample at the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse this week.

Overwhelmed with lust for Anne Boleyn and longing for a son, he appeals for help from the scheming Thomas Cromwell who, in return for power, gets him the divorce from Katherine of Aragon that he desires.

Henry VIII is played by a tempestuous Sean Duvall whilst Mark Butt gets into the mindset of Thomas Cromwell so well you can almost hear his scheming whispers to the King.

Mark is on stage most of the time and he gives an outstanding performance,

Cromwell remains loyal to Cardinal Wolsey (Geoff Holman), a man he respects even when the Cardinal falls from grace.

Lara Hancox’s Anne Boleyn is almost as bad as Cromwell, when she conceals a secret marriage to Harry Percy (Anthony Morris).

The King’s former wife, played exactly right by Emily Duffy, continues to call Anne ;a concubine' and fears, rightly, for her own daughter, Mary.

The King is ruthless with those who disagree with him. In one case he shows mercy by substituting decapitation for being hung, drawn and quartered.

The costume department deserves praise for a shimmering array of costumes. Henry VIII’s is a fur endorsed masterpiece.

The Elizabethan dancing is the icing on the cake.

* Wolf Hall is at Altrincham Garrick Playhouse until November 11. For tickets telephone 0161 928 1677 or book on line. Star rating: * * * * *