“Zero stuffiness.” That is one thing director Anita Rochon makes clear about the Globe Theatre’s latest production – The Last Wife.
The play, which previews March 1 and officially opens March 2, explores the marriage between King Henry VIII and his sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr. Yet what sounds like a cliché historical play is anything but, according to Rochon.
“It doesn’t resemble a Shakespeare; it doesn’t resemble a historical drama. It resembles interpersonal, domestic drama with really smart, incisive writing,” she said.
“We’re looking at a husband and wife trying to navigate their domestic relationship. It’s just, instead of figuring out who is going to pick up the kids and who is going to care of an ailing parent, they’re figuring out who is going to run the country when Henry is gone and who is going to be queen,” said Rochon.
According to Rochon, The Last Wife’s themes of power and gender are important in today’s society.
“We’re in a moment of incredible political upheaval,” she said. “We are at a precipice where people are asking huge questions around power – this play is asking huge questions around power and how we can harness our own power to empower others.”
Rochon also points to the exploration of gender relationships within the play. “When looking at inequality that exists within this time period, it allows us to perhaps look at it in a more overt way, so we can confront what we are actually dealing with right now,” she said.
The Last Wife centres around Parr – a smart, confident woman. This leading role is played by Sabryn Rock, an accomplished stage actress who is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada. Rock was born and raised in Regina, but has since lived and performed across the country.
Rock believes her character to be an early feminist of her time period, citing that Parr cared deeply about women’s rights and education.
“She was particularly unique because she had a really strong mind and was highly educated,” said Rock. “She’s really well-read and she seemed to be a really good match for Henry’s wit and temper.”
Director Rochon also points to the intricacies of the relationship between the two.
“The really interesting part about their relationship is how Kate is able to accept, understand and encourage the whole of Henry and who is and who he has to be,” she said. “His struggle is around accepting her full spectrum of who she is as a human and what she wants from life.”
Other characters in the show include Henry VII, played by Oliver Becker, and Henry’s children: Eddie played by Jaire Olmos; Bess, played by Robyn Sanderson and Mary, played by Anna Seibel. Donny Ready plays Thom, the man Parr falls in love with before she is obligated to marry the king.
The Last Wife was written by Katherine Hennig, an award-winning theatre artist based in Stratford, Ontario. The play first premiered at the Stratford Festival in 2015, where it received high praise. The play has since been reproduced several times across Canada and the United states.
Rock believes that Hennig’s writing is what sets this play apart. “The language is really, really deep and rich and complex and it’s really funny as well,” she said. “There is some really great word play and (Hennig) has such a biting wit and sense of humour, that it really comes alive in this piece.”
Rochon also points to the excellent writing. “It’s a juicy script that these actors get to dig their teeth into.”
The Last Wife premiers March 1 and runs March 2 to 19. Tickets are available at www.globetheatrelive.com.