Skip to content


Blue Beard Babes
Published on Saturday, 13 August 2011

5 stars

theSpaces on North Bridge (venue website)
5-6, 8-13 Aug, 8:10pm-8:50pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

This devised piece uses the familiar framework of a play within a play to tell the story of Henry the Eighth’s six wives. Six female actors await Hal, their director, to start work on a new piece. When he doesn’t arrive, they begin alone – using his notes to assign the roles and discover the story. We see glimpses of each woman’s life, and her relationship with the ever-absent Hal, as their work continues.

There are some very neat parallels between each actor and the role she is playing. Hannah (Romina Boldasu), who plays flighty young Catherine Howard, is having a wild affair and taking drugs; while Alexandra (Alice Frick), who plays Henry’s first wife Catherine of Aragon, is spending all her money on IVF, desperate for a child.

The silent sections of the play, in which we see the wedding and marriage of each wife to Henry, throw up some striking visual images. Playing cards are used as a motive and for a variety of props and costumes.  The image of Catherine of Aragon desperately trying to give Henry a baby, but offering him only armfuls of cards that melt away as she lifts them, is startlingly beautiful.

The piece works well in delineating each wife (something I’ve never quite been able to untangle in my brain before) and, although it jokes early on about there being only one good part amongst the six wives – there is quite a catfight over who gets to play Anne Boleyn – the play gives each wife space for her story. It must be said, though, that the piece is probably best enjoyed if you know at least a little of the historical background, or have had time to skin the programme beforehand.

The final result is a subtle and moving piece about female friendships and rivalries, which includes a history refresher as an added bonus.

<< My Big Gay Italian Weddin...   Orpheus and Eurydice >>