Ladies in Waiting: The Judgement of Henry VIII

Ladies in Waiting, written by and starring James Cougar Canfield as the lascivious and misogynistic King Henry VIII, is a steamy, feminist critique of the most notorious of England’s kings. This hellish drama reappraises King Henry VIII by evaluating him from the points of view of his wives after he has died, and it’s not that flattering.

Ladies in Waiting is an excellent show, depicting events of history from the long silent female point of view.

Set in Purgatory after the death of the fat, gout-riddled old king, Henry VIII finds himself young again. He’s made to face his judgement, conducted by his six wives. No longer are the wives reduced to the simple ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’; Instead, each wife is given her own voice, to make Henry reflect upon the wrongs done to them by a man so filled with hubris and double standards that he refuses to take responsibility for any of his actions. The voices of the wives put together as testimony against the king so strong, that it is impossible to exit without seeing them as the victims of a misogynistic sot.

The play is very intense, helping recreate the cut-throat nature of the court under Henry’s reign. Each of the six wives is given a voice so strong and so unique, with six phenomenal actresses bringing them and their stories to life. The rapport between them and Henry is incredibly different for each character. The play grows in intensity, culminating in the climactic showdowns with Anne Boleyn, by far the most manipulative wife, and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. We are made to feel their indignation and suffering in a way that no other play or film about the Tudors has so far managed, insofar as each character is given equal voice, and engages the audience’s pathos. The quality of the acting and the electric connection between king and wives in each scene enhances this, creating a gripping and intense drama that goes from strength to strength as the judgement proceeds to a conclusion.

For an evening of Tudor intrigue with all the intensity and sexiness of a show like The Tudors, and for a vivid retelling of history, Ladies in Waiting is an excellent show, depicting events of history from the long silent female point of view. Get there early though, because visibility beyond the front row is limited. 

Reviews by Fiona Russell

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The Blurb

What's a Tudor monarch to do when he has to face all six of his wives in the afterlife? Ladies in Waiting finds King Henry VIII in a purgatory-like situation, where one by one he must face off with each of his wives. Through dark humour, devastating truths, sexy seductions, and powerful revelations, Henry comes face-to-face with what his legacy has become – one entirely defined by women.