Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon | Sherman Theatre

After over a year of living in Cardiff I finally got around to paying a visit to the Sherman Theatre and bought myself a ticket to see The Belfast Ensemble's production of The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon. I would describe the show as a cross between a one woman play and a song cycle as it features only one actress, Abigail McGibbon, as Catherine accompanied by a small piano and string ensemble but rather than singing, McGibbon performs spoken word. I went in with very few ideas and expectations and was really impressed by what I saw.

This production is very immersive. Upon entering the auditorium you are greeted by the smell of incense to help set the scene and rather than traditional seating, you are encouraged to sit and lounge on mats, pillows and cushions that are scattered around the room. The stage space itself is very minimal: a white square stage with only a chair and a few small props which creates a very intimate feel. At times when Catherine is speaking I felt uncomfortable, as if I was intruding on something very personal while equally being pulled in by the intensity of McGibbon's performance. The show only runs for 50 minutes but McGibbon performed quite a feat holding the audience's attention almost entirely by herself. Her emotions felt very raw and real and despite knowing virtually nothing about Catherine of Aragon before the show, I really pitied her by the end.

The musical accompaniment, composed by Conor Mitchell (who also wrote and directed the show), definitely added to the emotion of the show and I loved how the texture rose and fell in keeping with Catherine's emotions. Combined with the contrasting lighting states it really created a production unlike anything I've ever seen before. A couple of times I did feel a little lost in regards to the details of the story (as I said earlier, I'm not a historian and I was completely unfamiliar with the events of Catherine's life before seeing the show) but I soon picked it up again and definitely left knowing the main points of the narrative.

The Moot Virginity runs at the Sherman Theatre until Saturday 28th January and I would really recommend it if you want to open your mind to something a little different. Check out the Sherman Theatre website for tickets.


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