Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Every schoolchild in England knows the fate of Henry VIII’s six wives. But what went on behind the scenes in the House of Tudor? That’s the question asked in Henry VIII & The Royal Wedding Planner at the Brewery Theatre.
Jane Parker, played by the superb Julia Gwynne, is an Essex girl who becomes a lady in waiting at Henry’s court. She proceeds to work for a succession of Queens, along the way marrying Anne Boleyn’s brother and gaining a rare insight into the machinations of one of our most famous monarchs.
This is a one-woman show directed by Andy Burden (The Adventures of Pinocchio) which starts with open-eyed wonder before veering into wild-eyed intensity as Gwynne not only plays Parker but also many other roles which include her two social-climbing parents and Henry’s chief adviser Thomas Cromwell.
Gwynne also brings to life Henry’s wives, most memorably Catherine of Aragon with her Spanish vowels, who despite being married to Henry for more than 20 years was unable to provide him with a male heir, thus precipitating the Protestant Reformation which led to the formation of the Church of England.
Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the important action occurs away from the stage, and the only principal character who Gwynne does not play is Henry himself. Instead we hear stories of his sporting prowess, his bedroom prowess and his infamous rages, which lead to not just two of his wives losing their heads.
Henry VIII & The Royal Wedding Planner is a brand new look at a familiar story featuring the riveting presence of Gwynne, wearing period costume on a bare stage with only minimal lighting. If you think you knew all about Henry VIII and his wives, think again.
Henry VIII & The Royal Wedding Planner plays at the Brewery Theatre until January 21. Click here for more information.