Review: The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon @ Sherman Cymru

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The Belfast Ensemble – The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon
Sherman Cymru
Tuesday 24th January 2017

Many of us recall Catherine of Aragon as the first wife of Henry VIII. Though her life was so much more than this, she seems to have had a bad rap for all this time.

In this spectacular piece of music theatre, The Belfast Ensemble present The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon. Composed, written and directed by Conor Mitchell, it is a telling testimony to the Spanish Queen who as a teenager was already betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, thus making her the Princess of our little country. The pull of the work lies mostly in her time with Arthur and the repercussions of his premature death. His older brother Henry VIII looms and is soon on the scene, dominating Catherine in his quest for a male heir.

Played here by Abigail McGibbon, in what is one of the most remarkable performances I’ve seen for some time, her command of the stage and the dramatic storms she conjures left me quite stirred. Her fury, her flirtation, her Spanish sensibility are all on display (remarks about the Welsh were insightful). This queen puts up with no guff and has a great humanity. Even with the rumours of incest, her mania is justified.

Mitchell’s score and script, skilfully blend into one another. His eloquent verse is at its core, whilst the music gently balances the dramatic tension, frequently adding to the heightened atmosphere created by McGibbon. Sat on the mat and pillows nearest the stage, it was hard to see the rest of the musicians, what with the piano lid raised up. The string players has a subtle role in this and were essential to the composition. Though not seen clearly, you felt their presence in the space.

Not being a spoiler (since it’s on the Sherman website) but the actual pig’s head used to end the night, inspired by the biblical story of Salome was a perturbing way to conclude. The whole piece is a blur, even at 50 minutes.

Contemplating the themes of the play, much emphasis is made on Catherine’s private parts. Has one woman’s vagina ever caused so much drama? Would a son for Henry VIII not resulted in the Reformation, an event which many still regard as a scourge in British history? These questions and more are the reason why Catherine needed her own show.

In short, this historically based work of music theatre should not be missed.

Strangely captivating theatre.

Rating: 4 stars

Photo credit: Sarah Pannasch

The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon is at Sherman Cymru till 28th January 2017.

Watch uspud by Erik Satie, Weeping Tudor Productions take on his bizarre music theatre piece, with storytelling and performance art. 

An extended performance of Satie’s Vexations take place around Cardiff in 2017, as a fundraiser for OCD UK, with such venues as the Wales Millennium Centre as locations (more to be confirmed). We also need more musicians, venues, electronics artists, rap artists and artists in all fields to help to complete the piece. Follow #CardiffVexations & @weepingtudor on social media to see more! 


Review: BBC NOW – Mahler’s 6th Symphony @ St. David’s Hall 

Tommy Emmanuel Supported By Clive Carroll @ St David’s Hall




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