Henry VIII and the Royal Wedding Planner

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

We all know the rhyme that details in callous swiftness the fates of the six women who married Henry VIII, but who were they and what motivated them? How did they differ and how were they seen by their contemporaries?

Those questions are at the heart of Henry VIII and the Royal Wedding Planner, a funny yet sensitive one-woman show that tickled a disappointingly small audience at the Norwich Playhouse on Saturday.

Julia Gwynne takes on the role of Jane Parker, the Norfolk-born aristocrat who spent most of her life in Henry’s court and frequently at the side of his various consorts. With some licence, Parker is cast in the role of lady-in-waiting and wedding planner, a slightly naive figure caught in wonder at the majesty of her surroundings.

But Gwynne also darts between the other players in the famously convoluted tale, also depicting each wife and even Thomas Cromwell.

The portrayals are necessarily roughly hewn but none the worse for it. This is a quick and witty romp through 20 years of history, condensed in to a 60 minute show.

Gwynne is impressive, entertaining and engaging throughout, never once wavering despite being under the sole spotlight throughout. Lesser actors might have buckled under the stress: she took it in her stride.

Together with director Andy Burden she has created a unique show that mixes history with humour. Saturday’s show was the last in the run; here’s hoping it returns.