Katheryn Howard is on trial for her life. At just seventeen, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII has been accused of adultery. Along with her ladies in waiting, she is locked in her rooms while interrogations and rumours outside and inside of the walls twist and turn to define her fate.
The production flits between their present day incarceration as they await news of young Katheryn’s fate at the hands of her husband, and moments in the past that will define her future. Both scenarios are powerful in their own rights – the flashbacks show what Katheryn has been accused of; with the ‘unchaste’ behaviour seen to be largely instances of her being taken advantage of, Katheryn being too young to consent or being forcibly taken. It’s a chilling echo of the situation she finds herself in during her present day. Her seventeen years on earth have been entirely spent with men who take what they want from her when they want it.
The movement in the piece is superbly choreographed, both through hands and body, communicating the spreading of rumours and controls over speech. And there’s some excellent performances in the all-female cast. Natalie Harper as Jane Rochford/Boleyn is excellent – haughty and smug at first, before becoming entirely, hysterically, broken as she finds herself implicated in the blame. Catherine Hiscock as Katheryn Howard is completely captivating in her monologues. Her distress is moving and her response to her predicament is haunting.
It does takes a while for the production to get into its stride, and asks for an amount of familiarity with Henry VIII’s history, particularly when it comes to the use of news regarding his previous wives to show the elapsing of time. There are also a few issues with lines and cue timings, leading to actors accidentally talking over each other and then a slight silence before they continue.
Minor faults aside, this is an interesting look into perhaps the less sensationalised of the two wives executed under Henry VIII’s orders. It’s a worthwhile look, particularly with its study of the elements of power, control, and the impact of blame on lives of those it’s directed at. It’s a haunting look into the lack of control and consent of women of that era; pawns, who live, copulate, and die at the hands and whims of men. Katheryn’s tale is one of many – and this is one that deserves to be heard.
Written by: Catherine Hiscock
Text Director: Georgia Leanne Harris
Movement and Chorus Director: Emmanuela Lia
Produced by: Goose Bite Theatre Company
Booking Until: This show has completed its current run
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: https://brockleyjack.co.uk/jackstudio-entry/katheryn-howard/