The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, Living Spit, Artsreach on tour

DIVORCED, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived, is a well known mnemonic to remember the fate of the Six Wives of Henry the Eighth, all brought to life on screen by Keith Michell et al on the BBC in the 1970s, more recently by Jonathan Rhys Meyers and cast in The Tudors , and for those of us of a certain age, in “prog rock” music by Rick Wakeman and all his synthesisers.

The same six words feature as lyrics of a song at the very beginning of this amazing and very amusing look at the same piece of history by Living Spit, currently on tour following a successful stint at the George Square Theatre as part of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Accomplished actors Stu and Howard step effortlessly in and out of the story of Henry and his wives, which they decide to tell after a particularly bad review of a previous show, a review that set the level of entertainment high from the very start. Songs, sketches, dresses, wigs, pubes, dolls, cushions and cardboard signs all feature highly, as do visits to the sets of Blind Date, Britain’s Got Talent and Jeremy Kyle, on this whirlwind journey through forty years of English history, from just before Henry’s accession to his death in the arms of Catherine Parr.

Stu and Howard are deft musicians and singers too, with styles ranging from blues to folk ballad, and both actors move well. With references to the more famous “Bath based star of Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman” Jane Seymour, the analogy that Roger Moore taking over the role of James Bond from Sean Connery is similar to Henry taking over the throne from his father Henry VII, and a wonderful Kraftwerk-style song to an electronic backing track, this is a fast-paced, energetic journey, which is only occasionally interrupted when the actors fall out with each other and argue, a device which, on the whole, works very well and reminds us in the end that we are all there to enjoy ourselves, something the “never even heard of the place” Gillingham audience certainly did.

For entertainment at its very best, catch Living Spit at Winterborne Stickland on Saturday and back in Dorset later in the month from 14th to 17th November, finishing at Child Okeford.

Wednesday 23rd October 2013

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