Writer/performer Olivia Miller brings Mary Tudor back to life in Bloody Mary – Live! at VAULT Festival
“Raise your hand if you’ve imagined your parents having sex”
Bloody Mary – Live! sees writer/performer Olivia Miller revisiting the history books to give the chapter devoted to Mary Tudor a fresh perspective through the lens of a raucous stand-up show. As she arrives onstage in a goth-inspired get up and bovver boots, instant parallels to Six spring to mind but as she asks us all who’s seen the show, she casually dismisses the attention devoted to her “wicked stepmothers”, all 5 of them.
This back-and-forth with the audience is a key part of the show, drawing us in to share anecdotes about first kisses, family feuds and favourite villains, and then one-upping at every opportunity. Paired up with a suitor for that first kiss at age just 2, her father exiling her mother and forbidding her to ever see her again, the men in her father’s court who blithely turned a blind eye to his behaviour and his treatment of her – she really did have a rough ride.
There’s a fascinating look at the way historical legacies are shaped – Mary was the first queen of England yet that is less often remembered than her sobriquet ‘Bloody’. Even without a contemporary lens, her lack of agency in her love life is shocking to behold. And we approach the minor issue of religious purges, she points out she was hardly the only monarch to indulge, though not all others necessarily gleefully describes the smell being like a barbeque…
Miller maintains an effervescent energy throughout, clearly at ease in coaxing audiences into play and riffing off the mad variety of their responses. And Olivia Munk’s direction keeps things taut as the gobby teenager we first meet gradually transforms into a (still gobby) queen and the shadows that accompanied many of those earlier laughs solidify into something much more menacing.