Fringe review: Til Death a tour de force

After seeing Monster Theatre’s production of Houdini’s Last Escape at last year’s Calgary Fringe Festival I had high hopes for this year’s Monster offering and I wasn’t disappointed.

Til Death is a tour de force for actor Tara Travis. She portrays all of King Henry VIII’s wives but she makes each one completely distinct so there is never any confusion who she is portraying in any one moment.

The framework for the show which allows each wife to tell her story is that all the wives are dead and are awaiting Henry’s arrival in some anteroom of Heaven. They are tasked with choosing among themselves who is Henry’s one true love; the one who is chosen will accompany Henry for all eternity into the royal section of Heaven.

Each wife tells her respective story of her relationship with Henry and how it came to a (sometimes deadly) end. The audience leaves with a clear biographical sketching of each of the wives.

That’s not to say however that Til Death is dry and boring. It’s anything but. Travis infuses each woman with life and vitality and makes a person remember these women aren’t just names in a history book.

The show is also full of laughs particularly in Travis’s portrayal of Anne Boleyn as a head missing a body and of Catherine Howard as an empty-headed bimbo. (Oh and Travis’s depiction of Anne of Cleves as an ugly German with very limited English skills is cruel but admittedly very funny especially when she relives her attempted seduction of Henry on their wedding night.)

What is truly remarkable about Til Death though is Travis’s rapid switching between characters — she never misses a beat. It’s really quite a remarkable theatrical feat to witness.