Sidmouth’s SADS Tudor drama is powerful stuff

Directing debut touches all the emotions for Sidmouth audience

WHEN a play makes me cry, either it is hilariously funny, inordinately sad or emotionally powerful.

It was the latter that brought on the tears towards the end of Katherine Howard, staged at Sidmouth’s Manor Pavilion by Sidmouth Amateur Dramatic Society last week.

Congratulations to Margaret Smith from Holyford, who yet again proved herself a fine director.

It was her first outing with SADS and the audience was left in no doubt there was, behind the royal fa�ade, a vulnerable, human side to King Henry VIII.

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Having ditched the smelly, ugly Anne of Cleves; beautifully portrayed by Pia Payne, the king, Steve Vernon, turns to the young and pretty Katherine Howard, performed by Susannah Best.

He woos her and despite her love for Thomas Culpepper (Daniel Radford), she marries him, spurred on by her conniving uncle the Duke of Norfolk (Barry Lister).

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The marriage turns into something of a love story until religion rears its ugly head and, in the form of Thomas Cranmer (Nicholas Arrow), the seed of doubt about Katherine’s virtue is sewn in the king’s mind in an attempt to keep England Protestant.

The performance got off to a humorous start with the heavy-booted Captain of the Guards, Jeff Hutchinson, raising laughs as he marched across the stage at the wedding of King Henry and Anne.

There was quite a bit of chuckling in the first act, but that soon turned to gasps as Lady Jane Rochford betrays Katherine, an act that leads to the young queen’s – and her own – execution.

With a brilliant script from William Nicholson, the discussion on freedom between the king and Katherine was outstanding. Steve Vernon’s interpretation was spot on, bringing out the vulnerability of this 50-year-old pus-ridden king, a prisoner to his country as his queen has no freedom as a woman. His interpretation of the king was masterful.

Susannah Best was excellent as Katherine, bringing out all the emotions in her performance, right until her execution, cleverly shown in silhouette.

Nicholas Arrow exuded malevolence as Cranmer and generally there was some great acting, despite some fluffed lines by Norfolk.

A well-researched minimalistic set and clever lighting by Light touch Design turned the whole stage into a Tudor masterpiece.

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