DramaReviewSouth West

The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon – Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Writer &Director: Conor Mitchell
Reviewer: Beth Steer

With one passionate actress, a room full of soft furnishings and a finale involving a real deceased pig’s head, The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon is definitely different.

tell-us-block_editedBased on the turbulent life and death of Henry VIII’s first bride, the piece is a 50-minute-long monologue, underscored by crashing and haunting live music, that explores the life of one of history’s most ‘mis-remembered’ women.

Apart from Catherine (Abigail McGibbon), the musicians are the only professionals on stage. The audience is invited to sit, stand or even lie down in this immersive theatre piece, and the scattered cushions and mats encircle the podium on which McGibbon, all in white, performs.

The play takes inspiration from the traditional ‘song cycle’, where a number of songs would be created to be performed as part of a set. Each scene is reminiscent of a live music track – with strings, piano and wind backing sections of recitation, where Catherine outlines various elements of her life and history, instead of the traditional singing.

It’s an interesting piece – both in content and concept. The minimalist set, clever use of a few isolated props and dramatically darkened lighting enhances the sense of immersion.

McGibbon’s performance is impressive in terms of endurance as the sole actor on stage, and she largely captivates the audience.

It’s a little difficult to follow in places; those with a degree of historical knowledge will benefit from the content more than those without. It does feel a bit disjointed in places, too, and is stuffed with symbolism that perhaps makes it a bit difficult to decode.

That being said, it’s definitely original – it’s unlikely you’ll have seen, or will see, anything like it again. It’s potentially quite a divisive piece – inspiring some and baffling others – and worth going to watch out of curiosity – and the guarantee of a bizarre evening.

Runs until 28 January 2017  |  Image: Sarah Pannasch

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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