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“In the small Studio Theatre director Martha Henry and her gifted designers have conjured the sumptuous, excessive world of Henry VIII by judicious and spare use of props and costumes that are bold in colour and, in the case of King Henry, voluminous. Kudos to designer Francesca Callow. Henry VIII, a masterful Jonathan Goad, makes a statement of power when he first appears in his beautiful gold robe. Goad controls the robe and is not overwhelmed by it. With understatement but definite presence Jonathan Goad’s performance grows into the robe. It’s a performance of size, full of easy charm, careful watchfulness, a nimble brain and intellect and sharp eyes that never miss a subtlety in others of his court.”
“… despite a number of fine individual scenes, especially those concerning Katherine of Aragon, the play comes off mostly as an artful attempt to exculpate Henry VIII of any wrongdoing during his early reign…
The first of the three characters to fall from the height of their power is the Duke of Buckingham. Although the character has little time on stage, Tim Campbell makes him memorably brave and a fitting precedent for the greater fall of Katherine. Brad Hodder is a fine Thomas Cranmer and transforms himself from the beleaguered scholar he seems to be when we first meet him into an inspired prophet who foresees the future greatness of Princess Elizabeth. Qasim Khan plays the Bishop of Winchester as a younger, meaner Wolsey in the making and lends his character the air of scheming and menace that Beattie could not emanate as Wolsey.”
“Although Henry, regardless of how genuine his love might be for these women, clearly sees them as property, the play itself does not. We see Katherine’s devastation over being thrown aside, and Anne’s excitement but also guilt over being the other woman.
I found myself leaning in to see what would happen when these women shared a scene-not because I wanted to see a Shakespearean cat fight, but because these are two multifaceted characters with who have found themselves in an impossible situation. The scene does not disappoint, as we have a moment where Katherine asks her handmaidens play her music and as Anne sings, she stands right behind her, staring at the back of her neck. She knows. And Anne knows she knows. This moment is as tense as when Henry draws his knife later in the play.”
“Goad is particularly effective demonstrating both the reflective and more troubled sides of the monarch as he contends with his wife’s failure to produce a male heir to the throne who will carry on the Tudor dynasty.
A deeply religious man, he questions the decision to marry his late brother’s wife, wondering whether God is punishing him by denying him a son. Goad’s intriguing characterization is one painted with shades of complexity, anger, grief and, ultimately, joy at the birth of his daughter Elizabeth, the future Elizabeth I.”
“The history play is rarely done even at theatres dedicated to the Shakespeare, only three times in this particular Canadian classical theatre company’s history before now – and canon completists are coming from far and wide to see it.
Director Martha Henry’s production, which has already been extended, won’t convince anybody that this is unjust neglect, mind you. But her off-beat and sometimes downright goofy take on the play features a few extraordinarily realized scenes that show us different shades of human dissatisfaction.
In between, the show offers an opportunity for some well-known members of the Stratford ensemble to try out nervy performances in the safety of the Studio Theatre with a text that doesn’t have a lot of preconceived notions weighing it down.”
“But the biggest counterpoint to the play’s objectification of women is the character of Katherine herself, who gets a number of meaty scenes: we first see her challenging Henry about aspects of his governance, then defending herself (bravely but unsuccessfully) against Henry’s attempts to divorce her.
Her death scene includes a dream sequence that is sometimes performed as a big pageant, but here the focus is fully on Poole as she reaches into the air in front of her, struggling to retain her grasp on reality. This is a significant role for a mid-career female Shakespearean actor (Seana McKenna played her in the Monette production) and Poole brings her characteristic gravitas, clarity and grace to it.”