When Elizabeth I was a teenager she lived with her father’s (Henry VIII) widow Katherine Parr and her husband, Thomas Seymour, the Lord High Admiral. Speculation ensued about an inappropriate relationship between step-father and step-daughter. After Katherine’s death less than two years after marrying Seymour, he was arrested for an attempt upon the young King’s life. Playwright, Kate Hennig, has created a version of events depicting Elizabeth as a conniving young woman/child who seduced her step-father to get him to help her take over the throne from her brother Edward; a treasonous act. Her sister Mary was inconsequential as she was Catholic. The play takes place in the Tower of London and Edward’s Lord Protector, who happens to be Tom’s brother, is conducting a trial of Elizabeth’s conduct in an attempt to spare his brother’s life.
I saw this play last week at “The Studio Theatre”:https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/Visit/TheatreAndGuides in Stratford, Ontario, one of the Stratford Festival theatres. The venue is small so every seat provides an intimate view of the stage. The production was set in present day, as evidenced by the costume on the playbill. Through the use of flashbacks, the story plays out a mercurial young Elizabeth who cannot wait to become Queen. Bahia Watson gives a stellar performance of young Bess, as Hennig puts it, “adapting, re-inventing her own image, pursuing her self as art, utilizing her unique principles and prescient solutions, to achieve her goals.”
“The Virgin Trial” is the second of Hennig’s plays about the Tudors. I have not seen the first, “The Last Wife,” but I will keep my eye out for a production. Watson also played Bess in “The Last Wife” in 2015 at the Stratford Festival. Hennig is working on another in the series: “Father’s Daughter.”