Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

"Love loves to wander-from one person to the next." (Schubert's Winterreise)

The Moot Virginity of Caterine of Aragon

The Belfast Ensemble , Sherman Theatre CARDIFF , January-25-17
The Moot Virginity of Caterine of Aragon by The Belfast Ensemble There was certainly nothing moot as regarding the marriage of this Spanish princess to Henry VIII. She became pregnant six times altogether, her only successful delivery was that of a daughter Mary, the future Queen Mary 1 of England. The dispute seems to refer to her first marriage. She was betrothed at three years old to Henry’s younger brother Arthur.

The performer, Abigail McGibbon, tells us she is three and takes us by degrees through to puberty until at sixteen she becomes Arthur’s wife. It is the consummation of this marriage that still remains in dispute and gives us the catchy title to the piece. Arthur was Henry’s elder brother. Catherine maintained the marriage was never consummated. The dilemma arises, as Arthur, who died within six months of their marriage, seemed to maintain it was. This became a moot point when Henry decides he wishes to become married to Anne Boleyn.

Catherine’s bold feistiness was certainly given full vent in this, at times, powerful performance. For me the laurels of the night go to Conor Mitchell who as composer and author of the piece made a significant contribution. Maybe his directing needed a bit of a polish. The work is described as “A verse cycle for actor and instruments”. The playing led by Aoife Magee at the piano, Jill Bradley on Violin and Elias Rooney ‘cello were a joy to listen to. The atmosphere they created very clearly provided great support to the performer.

The programme lists fifteen songs, each one commenting on Catherine’s emotions. The titles sound quite beautiful; if only a touch of this beauty had been present in the performance we might have been better satisfied. McGibbon is a strong voiced artist but at times she was difficult to hear so we lost track of some of the storyline. She needed to make a much stronger contact with the audience. She did eternalize her feelings well but she needed to get us involved with her more.

The modern setting of bright white floor, a chair and a small table with a telephone on it contributed little to the proceedings. It is indeed a fascinating story; it was a pity it was not better told.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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