Thomas Wolsey – The Rise & Fall by Suzanne Hawkes

Thomas Wolsey is very well known across Felixstowe and Ipswich. Local Playwright, Suzanne, has sent us this very informative piece of writing about the history of Thomas Wolsey.
Thomas Wolsey was born in Ipswich and rose to the highest office in the land under Henry VIII . But that was 550 years ago. Is there any point in trying to reach modern generations with the story of his life today?
Local playwright Suzanne Hawkes definitely thinks there is – as this year will be the second outing of her play about Cardinal Wolsey’s life and times: Thomas Wolsey- The Rise & Fall.
Suzanne says, “This was a period in our history where there were major changes in the way both our religion and our state were governed.”  
“When Henry VIII came to power England was a catholic state with the churches, and to a greater or lesser extent the King, under the control of the Pope. There were rich monasteries that controlled much of the countryside and rich bishops that controlled most of the towns and cities. Henry set about changing all of that in order to marry the woman he longed after precipitating a sea change both in the power of the throne and in the way people worshiped that was to cause divisions for many years to come. Cardinal Wolsey was next only to the king and thought he was untouchable, but in the end he too was caught up in the tsunami of change which led to his eventual demise.”
“So did Wolsey fall because of  random chance? He worked hard, and with wit and intelligence rose to prominence, but Wolsey himself was a flawed character and didn’t have the best start in life. There are lessons to be learnt today about how to rise in spite of your roots, how to develop the characteristics in you to succeed, but also how to avoid ambition at any price.   It is also important for a community to be educated on their local history in order to discover pride in the place they live.”
Using music, mime and storytelling, Suzanne has developed  a touring drama that will be taken out into the community by her company Black & White Productions at site specific locations in order to educate and inform through entertainment.
The first version of the play was written with much research via original documents and with the help of an eminent local authority on Wolsey, Dr John Blatchley. This new version has been edited and rewritten with additional music included.
The play looks at Wolsey’s early life in Ipswich and his influences, but mainly deals with his career as he rose to the top job in the land and then his crashing defeat through the eyes of those who knew him best: his man servant Thomas Cavendish who subsequently wrote a book to try and restore the reputation of his beloved master, and Thomas Cromwell, who was his lawyer and confidant but in the end benefited from his demise.  
The initial tour will be over two weeks in April  beginning in Black & White’s home venue of  Two Sisters Arts Centre, Trimley St Mary on 12th – 14th April, then visiting Aldeburgh Parish Church on 15th April, St Peter & St Paul, Old Felixstowe on 20th April, St Peter on The Waterfront, Ipswich on 21st April and St Marys Church, Bucklesham on 22nd April
It is then hoped there will be a second tour in the autumn which will include a medieval former inn in Ipswich and Erwarton Church near Shotley where Anne Boleyn’s heart is said to have been buried.
Tickets can be bought online at


Photo credits: Jayne Lindill