Recently, Kate Hennig nailed her performance of Margaret Thatcher in The Audience and clearly she is equally as talented in the writing department. She penned Soulpepper’s production of The Last Wife which was originally produced at Stratford. Hennig’s writing is crisp, fresh and highly entertaining. Her dialogue crackles with intelligence and wit.
The play is an imagined look at Henry VIII and his last wife Katherine Parr—she was one of the wives that survived. Hennig leans on documented facts and simultaneously breathes new life and humanity to these famous historical figures.
Parr, played magnificently by the luminous Maev Beaty would definitely have donned a pink pussy hat and been at the recent (anti-Trump) marches. She advocates for her step daughters Mary and Bess and is instrumental in convincing Henry to acknowledge his daughters as successors to the throne. She fights for equality and stands up to her husband who largely acquiesces to many of her demands. Joseph Ziegler does a nice job of humanizing Henry who becomes more than a fat king wearing a funny hat and eating oversized drumsticks with his hands while simultaneously ordering the execution of wives that don’t quite meet his fancy of the day.
The always fascinating Bahia Watson imbues Mary with an innocence and quirky eagerness that plays well against Sara Farb’s feisty and brash Mary. Young Jonah Q. Gribble brings a lovely intelligence to Eddie and Gareth Potter rounds out the cast as Thom. The acting in The Last Wife is fantastic. You can tell that this is a remount as there is a comfort on stage that often doesn’t exist on an opening night.
At first I wasn’t sure that I loved the choice of modern dialogue and dress but I was quickly enraptured by this compelling production. Alan Dilworth has led a widely talented cast to execute a strong script. There is an economy to his direction which serves this piece perfectly. The Last Wife is a very entertaining piece of theatre.
The Last Wife is onstage now through February 11. For more information or tickets visit: https://soulpepper.ca/