The Six Wives of Henry VIII promises us ‘silly songs and historical hysteria’ and that’s exactly what Howard Coggins and Stu McLoughlin set out to do. However, they only succeed partly as the silliness at times became just a tad too extreme.
The show opens up with the duo’s first two-man play being given a one star review in the press and describing the actors in less-than-flattering ways. However, after discovering that Howard shares a scary resemblance to Henry VIII, they decide to put on a show featuring this 16th-century Don Joan and all of his six wives. The only problem is that, since there only are the two of them, Stu has to play all of the women.
This is a diverse show that includes live music performed by the actors together with comic acting and interaction with the audience. The musical elements are without question the absolute highlights of the show in both lyrics and performance, particularly Howard Coggins, who shows great comic skill and talent. Stu McLoughlin impresses hugely with a wide range of different accents, portraying the different wives distinctly and with humour. Some of the one-liners are beautifully performed and the two actors manage to a great extent to turn a rather grim and dry subject fun and interesting.
However, what starts off as a festive tour through Tudor history simply goes on for too long and after the story of the third wife is told one cannot help but feel that the show should have been at least 15 minutes shorter. The fundamental problem with this production is that there is too much going on at the same time. Not only are the two actors trying to convey the story of Henry VIII, they also tell the story of their complicated friendship, intervals which undoubtedly are meant to provide comic relief but which simply break up an otherwise funny show. As such, the show loses focus and becomes a bit too chaotic and silly, which is a shame considering the absolutely wonderful pieces of comedy found at different times throughout the show.
Despite these flaws, The Six Wives of Henry VIII is a funny piece of theatre. Howard Coggins and Stu McLoughlin show great comic and musical talent and mainly achieve what they set out to do, although the silliness at times feels somewhat excessive.