REVIEW: Ladies in Waiting (Drayton Arms Theatre) ★★★★
Ladies In Waiting had a one night London preview at the Drayton Arms Theatre before its transfer to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The play has been written, workshopped, directed, and performed by graduates of East 15 Acting School.
This play takes the idea of Henry VIII having to face each of his six wives, not knowing what his legacy as king has been. We find Henry in a dark room where one by one he must confront the women he married, hear their version of events, and make his peace with them.
The rhyme, “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” runs through the play although the wives do not appear in chronological order, testing the audience’s memory of Henry’s marital history and how each marriage ended.
Henry is played by the author, James Cougar Canfield, convincing as the initially confused king, running through a range of emotions as his past comes back to haunt him. This manly man for whom women were disposable is made to atone for his decisions as his queens appear before him.
Each woman brings Henry some information or revelation about his legacy. The tender reunion with Jane Seymour (Jessica McClellan) is particularly touching. The strongest writing comes in the angry confrontation with Anne Boleyn (Wendy Kenney) and the final conversation with Catherine of Aragon (Hilary Kelman), Henry’s first and longest serving wife and the one he most needs to beg forgiveness from. Through these six encounters, Henry realises that his legacy is one entirely defined by women; his wives and his daughter, Elizabeth, not his beloved and long desired son, Edward.
The set is simple; a throne sits in the centre of the stage and six chairs surround it, facing the throne with their backs to the audience. The queens sit in the chairs when they are not speaking with Henry and their disembodied voices add an eerie tone to the proceedings.
Ladies in Waiting is a well written play on an interesting theme with a strong cast. Well worth adding to your list if you’re making the trip to Edinburgh in August.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Ladies In Waiting plays 5th – 27th August at 9:45pm as a part of the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival theSpace on the Mile, Theatre 2 www.thespaceuk.com | www.edfringe.com