Of Plantaganets and politics, circa 12th century

Posted 1/29/11

It’s Christmas, 1183, in the frigid castle at Chinon. Snow drifts down in the background and Queen Eleanor has recently arrived, released for the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?

Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.


Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.

Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

Of Plantaganets and politics, circa 12th century


It’s Christmas, 1183, in the frigid castle at Chinon. Snow drifts down in the background and Queen Eleanor has recently arrived, released for the holidays from 10 years of imprisonment by her husband, King Henry II. He is 50 and she is 61 — both well past middle age in that period, when many people died before reaching 40.

The lion and lioness remain fierce, with claws frequently extended as they continue a longstanding love/hate relationship, bickering about which of their sons should succeed Henry as king: Richard the Lionhearted, favored by his mother; Geoffrey, favored by neither; or young whining John, preferred by Henry.

Directing this American classic is, appropriately, Philip Sneed, director of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, who has worked with each actor to develop a distinct persona in a tale of greed, manipulation and bluster. The dialogue is absolutely delicious and every word is crisp and clear. While the thoughts often tend to be bloody, the play is in every sense a comedy. One can’t help but think the Bard would have loved it!

John Arp roars, purrs and usually gets his way as Henry II, who did indeed fight his way to become England’s king, while marrying the world’s most eligible woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, played wonderfully by Rachel Fowler. Eleanor had been married to King Louis of France and was powerful, ruthless and brainy.

The couple’s three living sons are rivals for the crown and for the favor of both parents, who admit at one point that they don’t much care for any of the boys. Geoffrey Kent plays conflicted Richard Lionheart, the oldest; Josh Robinson is convincingly sleazy as the middle son; and Jake Walker, as young John behaves much like a 21st century teenager.

The dysfunctional Plantaganet family reigned — 800 years ago, with a protest from mother about “can’t we just love each other?” and a snippy answer from father about how “every family has its ups and downs.”

Also in the picture: young king Philip of France (Benjamin Bonenfant), who is learning quickly how to behave like a king and his half sister Alais, who had been sent to Henry’s court at age 8 as a future bride for Richard. However, Henry has taken a fancy to her and she has been one of his many mistresses. She too learns how to manipulate and play games as she remains in this company.

One can’t help but think about today’s statesmanship, albeit without the elegant costumes created for this production by Chris Campbell, whose attention to detail is apparent on every sleeve and vest.

Brian Mallgrave’s set, with cold, gray stone walls, backed by a winter sky works for multiple scenes with only simple prop changes (done by a crew in period costume).

Background music, designed by Steve Stevens included early carols and other early tunes, while the lighting worked with the candlelight. The production magic is as usual, nearly perfect at the Arvada Center, as is the quality of performance. It’s a “don’t miss.”

If you go:

“The Lion in Winter” by James Goldman plays through Feb. 20 at the Arvada Center Black Box Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. See arvadacenter.org for performance times and ticket prices. 720-898-7200.


Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.