The Six Wives of Henry VIII: Living Spit, Exchange Sturminster Newton and touring

HOWARD Coggins and Stu McLoughlin, aka Living Spit, are a force to be reckoned with.

This Bristol based comedy duo are simply hilarious; their Six Wives of Henry VIII, described as a tragically hysterical history, is just about the daftest, cleverest show I have seen all year.  They have clearly built up quite a following in Sturminster Newton too, and the pair soon had last night’s capacity audience eating out of their hands.

Howard, who genuinely does bear an uncanny resemblance to Henry VIII and Stu, who looks nothing like any of the wives or indeed any of the dozen or so other characters he plays, gave us a full-on performance that was not only side-splittingly funny but, more than once, deeply poignant too. The “fat man with a head like a shiny boiled egg” and his partner “resembling a praying mantis” to quote the (presumably) fictitious review with which the show opened, were the perfect comedy team.

The dialogue sparkled throughout while the set pieces were an absolute scream.  Their references to popular culture really engaged the audience and the witty takes on The X Factor and Blind Date for example were little short of brilliant. I loved Mcloughlin’s depiction of three talentless wannabees with their faltering renditions of the Lord’s Prayer, the book of Genesis and the Ten Commandments as did I his portrayal of the line-up of would-be brides which included a particularly formidable looking Ann of Cleves.

Some of the biggest laughs came from the visual humour. Anne Boleyn, for example, was initially played by a Barbie Doll and Coggins’ lascivious feelings towards his future bride were given the full treatment to the increasing delight and incredulity of the audience. Suggestive just wasn’t the word.  The birth of daughter Elizabeth was equally hilarious, but there then followed a very clever mood swing as Anne, as a real person this time, was sent to the Tower.

Despite all the laughs that had gone on just moments before, we found that we cared for her. There was other moments of pathos too, including that when, as a young boy, Edward VI asks of Henry “Where’s mummy?” and some real dramatic tension when Catherine Howard was subject to an interrogation whilst attached to a lie detector.  In a different context that scene could have been very scary indeed.

There were, of course, many, many other scenes that stay with me – Henry and Jane Seymour doing their embroidery in unison, the phone call to the Pope, the shenanigans under the blankets with Catherine of Aragon … the list goes on.   The couple enjoyed some gentle banter with the audience and there was some great music too – both performers are accomplished singers and guitarists, and the musical numbers were delivered with considerable expertise.

Last but not least, it was also genuinely informative.

Sadly, for me at least, the performance flagged a little towards the end.  The scene where Coggins and McLoughlin have a supposed falling out, didn’t quite hit the spot and although most of the rest of the audience seemed to like it I couldn’t really see its relevance. However, there was no doubting the tenderness of the final scene when Henry dies in the arms of his last wife, Catherine Parr.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, the “show that didn’t make them famous” is currently on tour and with several performances in the area this autumn, it is a show you shouldn’t miss.

Nights out in Sturminster don’t come much better than this!


For more information, visit the Living Spit website:

Posted in Reviews on .