October 16, 2021

Mock Tudor – Pleasantly silly fringe comedy about the future of the past

Please turneth off your mobile phones

Historical comedies continue at the Edinburgh Festival with Mock Tudor, set amongst a group of costumed interpreters at Hampton Court Palace. These are the people you see on a visit to palaces and castles who dress up in authentic costume and wander about drinking mead and carrying falcons. They usually speak Tudorese and are always saying things like For sooth, the king demands more peacocks for his breakfast.

The show is based on a day in these actors lives, as they perform to palace visitors in places like the clock court, privy kitchen and great hall and deal with their duplicitous manager Kent. It is 1533 and the re-enactors are playing Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and the less famous Wench. The Spanish princess has fallen out of favour and Miss Boleyn has caught the King's eye. Maybe a long life of royal approval awaits her…

As well as their starring moments in costume we also see behind the scenes in 2014 and experience the relationships, ambitions and rivalries between the actors. Like most human endeavours motives amongst the interpreters are mixed. Some take it seriously, even dressing up in a kirtle on their days off and refusing to acknowledge the existence of potatoes, glasses and iPhones. Others are in it for where it might take their careers.

Written by Lily Bevan, who also stars as Sophie the script plays with the anachronistic possibilities of the setup, and mines the Tudor period for jokes. Will Rastell's booming-voiced King Henry VIII is a farcical delight, his fake beard being swapped amongst cast members when necessary. Jess as played by Sophie Bleasdale embodies the self-enforced busyness of the person who fears to stop and have to think whilst Fraser Millward gives manager Kent a slimey appeal.

Mock Tudor examines different attitudes to the past. For some it has become an escape from a too complicated present. For others the past is just another asset to be mined. For the audience it's all pleasantly silly. The dual time period works successfully and a Michael Jackson inspired interlude is cleverly worked. I would just have liked to see Henry VIII moonwalking.

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