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BLOODY MARY (article first published : 2002-06-1)

What emerges from Bloody Mary, featuring Carol Trench and Evan Roberts currently running at the Royal Hotel’s Backstage, is that there’s welcome new comedy talent on the Durban scene. Jon Solem, better known among the theatre set as the other half of Carol Trench, has produced a gently satirical, witty and clever script. The subject matter – and the character Carol Trench plays – is Mary Tudor. Dubbed “Bloody Mary”, she was the daughter of Henry VIII of England by his first wife Katherine of Aragon.

Jon provides a fresh look at a historical character who tried to enforce Catholicism back into what was then Protestant England. He quips that she “had to burn 271 heretics to get people back into church”. A point here – the show is not for the religiously sensitive involving as it does songs like Tom Lehrer’s irreverent Vatican Rag and another send-up The Cardinal Can, a parody on The Candy Man (a song about drugs). As a voice-over, Jon includes a fun take-off of CNN – with Mediaeval News Network – MNN!

The second surprise of the evening, although we did get a taste of this ability a couple of months back in Let’s Misbehave, is the fact that Evan Roberts is beginning to hold his own as an actor and a dancer. Normally firmly entrenched (no pun intended!) behind a piano in previous shows, he has been enticed away from the keyboard to play certain scenes, such as the role of Henry VIII complete with crown and curly red beard. Then came the real surprise – he accurately and stylishly completed a dance sequence without once putting a foot wrong. I know because I was watching both feet in astonishment at the time!

Carol Trench is a consistently good performer with a fine voice – particularly in jazzy sequences. A disciplined singer, she respects her craft and it shows. Her “Bloody Mary” is flamboyant, vigorous and deliciously wicked!

Director Peter Court has extracted the maximum amount of humour from this delicious raunchy romp and Jenny Sander and Black Coffee Productions have pulled out the stops regarding the set. Featuring miniature stone castle walls, stained glass windows and various weapons, the tiny stage is transformed without being cluttered. The show puts “theatre” back into supper theatre.

The same sense of fun of extends to The Good Wife Guide which is placed on the tables and details Henry VIII’s six wives and their individual destinies. (I remember the mantra well from schooldays: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived!).

Bloody Mary runs at The Royal Backstage until June 29. Tickets include a three-course dinner and Chef’s menu reflects the evening’s sense of fun. Each item is couched in Olde English but, roughly translated, states that for starters there’s Tudor Mushrooms with Leek Ragout which I found very enjoyable but the other option, Creamed soup of Tomato had more than the “hint of spice” advertised. The main course includes Baked Linefish with red pepper and anchovy sauce – nicely spiced and moist - or Marinated Mutton which was in fact a lightly spiced curry. For dessert there’s Strawberry Cheesecake with Mango Coulis.

For bookings or more information, contact Gita at The Royal Backstage on 031 333-6222.




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