The poster for this production boasts “Wolf Hall meets Talking Heads”, and it delivers. The trouble is, Alan Bennet’s once inventive style now belongs in the 1980s.
Bernie C Byrnes’ ambitious script weaves through the inner monologue of Mary Tudor and a protestant man as Mary comes to power. A divisive figure in her own time, she is a fascinating choice for the subject of a play whose performance dates lie slap bang after the finale of Game of Thrones and while twists on historical dramas litter the West End.
Byrnes interpretation of Mary as a self-obsessed and arrogant young queen is portrayed by Tamara Wilder who offers a controlled and assured performance. While Wilder’s poise is successful in capturing the audience’s attention in its opening moments, ultimately the audience loses interest as the production’s tone continues to be witty but bland.
Wilder is complemented by Nathan Charles, who noticeably remains seated for the entire performance. Here is a character wise beyond his years and utterly more judicious than Mary. As a protestant, he firmly expresses his antipathy towards Mary's policies and we see this in Charles’ rallying call to our intimate fringe audience for the duration of the hour-long performance.
Sadly, Charles’ ability is desperately underserved by the script, as Tamara Wilder receives the majority of screen time. His brief monologues are momentarily mesmerising as he demonstrates an acute control of his voice and makes use of a charming gleam in his eye beneath a well-kept beard. But ultimately, the opportunity to gain the protestant perspective is overshadowed by Mary’s infinitely larger share of the script, which feels unnecessary considering that Mary's voice is a well-worn one throughout history. Our unnamed protestant is left hiding in the shadows, yet everyone loves an underdog.
There is clearly an appetite for narratives lost in history, with Hamilton, Emilia and Six forming an exciting holy trinity in London’s theatre circuit. What connects these performances is their ability to take risks, and one of them even began at a fringe festival, lest we forget.
So to produce another historical drama for a modern audience with little in the way of imaginative staging and perceptive comments on a well-trodden historical timeline is a detriment to the overall production value of Bloody Mary.
This performance houses some interesting talent but they are wholly swallowed by monologues that are watery and tedious.