top of page
  • Miles Hedley

TRY ME, GOOD KING at the Queen’s House

Greenwich was the epicentre of murderous intrigue in Tudor England, so there’s surely no better place to examine the life and legacy of its bloodiest practitioner, Henry VIII. And in this age of #MeToo, a feminist take on the paranoid, syphilitic narcissist is long overdue.

Writer-director Jennifer Hamilton duly obliges at the Queen’s House on the site of Henry’s pleasure palace Placentia with a musical investigation, beautifully sung by Trinity Laban students, entitled Try Me, Good King.

Using a brilliant song cycle by Libby Larsen as well as works by the likes of Byrd, Purcell, Handel and Henry himself, Hamilton imagines the newly-dead king being forced to face his six wives in Purgatory – and having to listen to the litany of often psychotic horrors to which he subjected them.

His only defence is to plead that everything he did was to ensure he fathered a son to keep England safe, a defence that is gleefully undermined when he is confronted by his daughter Elizabeth who points out to him that it is she who transformed the nation, encouraged the arts by patronising the likes of Shakespeare and is remembered as the greatest ruler of the Tudor age.

There are fine performances by the cast and chorus, particularly Alex Hardy as Henry, Hannah Wardrop as Elizabeth and Dominic Felts as a wittily luvvie Shakespeare.

And there are some neat subversive jokes amid the gore – Henry is accused of plagiarising Greensleeves and it’s suggested Shakespeare’s plays were written by a woman.

But the real strength and delight of Try Me, Good King is Larsen’s fabulous song cycle about Henry’s wives, magnificently made flesh by Sofia Bagulho as Katherine of Aragon, Siyu Shen (Anne Boleyn), Olivia Thomas (Jane Seymour), Scarlett Jones (Anne of Cleves), Jasmine Flicker (Catherine Howard) and Rebecca Chandler (Catherine Parr).

Backed by musical director and keyboardist Kelvin Lim, Lucia Foti on harp and Stefano Fiacco on the lute, their singing captured all the fury, injustice and despair of their characters' cruelly short lives in a way that managed to be at once emotionally shattering and musically uplifting. The ovation they were given was richly deserved.

bottom of page