Monday, June 24

The Secret Diary of Henry VIII – Eastbury Manor

Come rain or shine. Bring a chair, a picnic blanket, or a picnic for that matter. There’s merry fooling to be had, mellifluous music to be heard, and a manicured lawn to lounge on. This relaxed staging of theatrical farce is anything but languorous. With frenetic pacing to match the attention span of even the most distractible of children and a host of characters frenzied enough to drive parents to distraction, Three Inch Fools’ The Secret Diary of Henry VIII pulls off a difficult balancing act of consistently holding audience’s attention without ever demanding or begging it.

Gently cradled in the charming back garden of the only moderately grandiose Eastbury Manor House, audiences are engaged without ostentation and entertained without overwhelming. The rapport between performer and audience is comfortable and convivial and laughs come easily and often over the show’s approximately two-hour runtime.

Following the frolicsome exploits and frivolous executions of Tudor history’s own “Big Henners” (Charlotte Horner) the play spans a tumultuous era of history and presents the facts digestibly, peppered with plenty of purely theatrical tumult and a good deal of tumbling too. Performer and fight captain Lucy Chamberlain particularly scintillates as she somersaults and sashays her way through innumerable quick changes, imbuing each character she takes on with a distinctly preposterous physicality and varied vocal affect.

The joy of performance shines through each role she takes on and the stagey sparkle in her eye captivates both young and old in the audience witness to her performance as Brandon, Henry VIII’s weaselly wingman and bawdy best bro. These two bosom buds are joined in the mixed pot of the plot by a whole slew of historical figures brought kicking and screaming back to life with much aplomb by performer/musicians James Aldred and Peter Long. The musical performances of all four company members and the easy harmony in which they co-perform is a pleasure to witness.

Entertaining, almost educational, and entirely absurd, this boisterous romp is well worth the twisting, turning, and tumbling it takes to tell. Tour dates for The Secret Diary of Henry VIII can be found on Three Inch Fools’ website. They will return to Eastbury Manor House on May 30th to perform Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 26th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.