Olivia Miller

Olivia Miller. Picture: Ashley Garrett Photography

Bloody Mary: LIVE!

The Treehouse Bar

Assembly Festival Gardens, Coventry

A Part of the Night Production as part of Coventry’s City of Culture 2021


The Tudor dynasty wasn’t short on villains. You could count Henry VIII and at least one of his six wives but what about the children?

The longed-for boy Edward V1 was brought up as a protestant and too young to do much damage. History, for good reason, has been kind to Elizabeth 1, the Virgin Queen. Who does that leave?

Mary Tudor, only surviving child of discarded wife number one, Catholic Catherine of Aragon, ‘Bloody Mary’ is the focus.

Olivia Miller, as researcher, writer and brilliant performer does a neat PR job from the 1530s. If this were, say, Dynasty, we might be looking at Joan Collins in her vicious Carrington heyday; but was Mary a psychotic schemer or just damaged by circumstance?

‘Hurt people hurt people’ is the adage used by professionals. Mary, as daughter of Henry VIII, was already a disappointment in just being female. Add in that Henry had married his brother’s widow and there were questions as to whether that was legal. No more living children and the Pope refusing a divorce split the country by religion and years of seesawing twixt Catholicism and Protestantism that was frankly giddying and rather dangerous.

However, the show, directed by Olivia Munk and produced by Jessica Bickel-Barlow, is billed as comedy meets one-woman show. It’s definitely entertaining, definitely enthralling and definitely showed Mary in a new light. The spotlight is on Mary’s childhood: staunchly Catholic, clever and intelligent, isolated including from her mother and made to care for the infant Elizabeth, infatuated with her tutor Stephen, and used as a bargaining chip by her father in his foreign policy.

She was engaged at the age of two to a French prince, at age six to the Holy Roman Emperor then it was back to the French by 10 and finally married in adulthood the King of Spain, Phillip II, which didn’t go down well with the Brits.

As a performer, Olivia Miller is brilliant. She drags us through an emotional repertoire from tears to mirth and back again. So why has history treated her so badly? Apparently, Elizabeth had far more Catholics killed than Mary had Protestants. The jury’s out but once you’ve earned a nickname such as Bloody Mary it sticks – and it’s a pretty good cocktail!

Jane Howard


Part of the Night

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