Arts & EventsGame of Thrones Eat your Heart out: Don’t Miss the GCTC’s The Virgin Trial

Game of Thrones Eat your Heart out: Don’t Miss the GCTC’s The Virgin Trial

Game of Thrones Eat your Heart out: Don’t Miss the GCTC’s The Virgin Trial

All photos by Andrew Alexander


Game of Thrones, eat your heart out. Canadian Playwright Kate Hennig’s Tudor trilogy is proving to be spectacularly more satisfying that the tv show for political intrigue, suspense and thrills. Incredibly, it is all based on history.

The season opener for the Great Canadian Theatre Company is part two in Hennig’s trilogy. The Virgin Trial picks up the action about a year and a half later after Catherine Parr, last wife of King Henry VIII, has died.  Brush up on that story first here

King Edward VI is now on the throne, overseen by his uncle Ted Seymour, and an attempt has been made on the king’s life.

Elizabeth, (Bess), is brought in for questioning. She is now 15-years-old and is both accused of messing around with her stepfather, Thomas Seymour (Ted’s brother and uncle to the King) and plotting to kill her brother. (Thomas Seymour was a questionable character and debate around whether or not it was sexual abuse remains.)

The political intrigue will satisfy any political junkie and the sexual intrigue is a look into the sexual politics of the Tudor era, all the while being incredibly poignant today in the era of #metoo.

Hennig beautifully weaves the present into the past and vice versa in a cleverly crafted story that is based in history.  Again, as was the case with The Last Wife, she tackles themes of women, power, feminism and in this case public opinion all the while respecting the history of the story she is telling. The story is a fascinating one and it might help to read up a bit on it before going in to fully grasp the details of who was who, but it isn’t necessary. The play is strong on its own. 

We watch as Elizabeth, who is already a brilliant mind, develops into a cunning brilliant political mind. At first, she seems innocent and sweet and we watch and see that there is much more to Elizabeth.To watch how she navigates and recreates herself, guided somewhat by her half-sister Mary, is a portrait of incredible girl power. I will not spoiler alert but then again history has done that already. Elizabeth was one of the strongest and most accomplished monarchs in history.  No messing with her.

One thing to bear in mind: there are some uncomfortable scenes of interrogation torture in the play of Team Elizabeth. Then again, those tactics were used in the day, as Ted tries everything to extract information, but they might be disturbing.

The play itself is set in today’s time, uses modern English and yet there is still a palpable and inexplicable Tudor feel to the play. The acting is incredible. Kristina Watt is fantastically demonic as Eleanor in her bad cop pursuit of Elizabeth as the sexual temptress as opposed to the abused, and as she attacks Elizabeth, the sexual politics of accusations and blame and victim shaming are shockingly poignant and enraging.

Chris Ralph (Uncle Ted) is successfully devious and deviant as he pursues his own political agenda.

Cassel Miles’ Parry has a great energy onstage. Kate Smith (Ashley) elicits many emotions and we cringe at their interrogation. Both are historical characters as well.

Lydia Riding’s transformation of Elizabeth is wonderful to watch and there is a great chemistry between her and Anie Richer (Mary). 

All in all, this is another must-see by the GCTC. Well done. It runs until September 30.

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