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Divorced, Beheaded, Died.


King Henry VIII played by Jack Abbot. Photo courtesy of the Priory Theatre.


Divorced, Beheaded, Died. An Audience with King Henry VIII, by John White. At the Priory Theatre, Kenilworth for one night only on 29 September 2023.

Review by Ann Evans


The audience at The Priory Theatre enjoyed a right royal regal evening on 29 September, entertained by no other than King Henry VIII. We were whisked back in time to 1544 as King Henry, the eighth of that name, whilst engaged upon ‘Royal Progress’, stopped off at the Priory Theatre to give his loyal subjects an opportunity to have an audience with their Sovereign Lord and King, and even to pose a question to His Highness.


King Henry VIII addresses his loyal subjects. Photo courtesy of the Priory Theatre.


King Henry VIII made a sombre and foreboding entrance from the back of the auditorium, dressed in all his finery, a large, powerful man looking every inch the famous Tudor king. He was, we were told, suffering from poor health, his badly infected leg was causing considerable pain – and he was not in the best of moods!


The year is 1544 and the King has recently married his sixth wife, Queen Catherine Parr. She, Henry explained was a kindly woman who nursed his painful and puss-riddled leg, and they were ‘content’.


The King was in fine form regarding telling his audience of his life, his loves and his heartaches. He talked in great detail and with great passion of each of his six wives, firstly of their loyalty and beauty but as they failed to give him the son he so desperately craved, he raged about how he was betrayed and cheated on by them – or so he was led to believe. And he took great pleasure in describing how they came to a sticky end one way or another!


Jack Abbot, Henry VIII, Select Society. Photo courtesy of Ann Evans.


The man beneath the silk brocade, fur and padding is Jack Abbot who is part of the Select Society Theatre Company whose work takes them all over the UK to schools, theatres, stately homes, castles etc., bringing history to life through detailed research of the times and iconic characters from the main periods throughout history. He played the part of this angry, arrogant King perfectly, and was totally believable. His acting and word-perfect delivery of his story held the audience spellbound.


The writer, Ann Evans, meets King Henry VIII.


For the final part of this 2-hour performance, King Henry VIII invited his loyal subjects to petition him – that is to ask him questions about his life. To begin with the loyal subjects appeared to be slightly in awe of questioning a king, but gradually people took the plunge, hoping not to incur the King’s wrath with their impudence wanting to know such things as how many meals he ate a day, and more political questions which surprisingly related to situations of modern times. King Henry VIII then removed his royal hat and became Jack Abbot for the final part of question time, turning the tables to ask the audience questions.


It was a great fun evening but also hugely informative in a fascinating way and packed full of detail of life back in those Tudor times.


For details of further productions at The Priory Theatre: https://www.priorytheatre.co.uk

Discover more about the Select Society Theatre Company: https://selectsociety.co.uk

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