Through a twist of circumstance starting with his master’s estate and assets seized by the crown, Will Somers becomes fool to King Henry VIII. A tough job with a high turnover rate, Somers isn’t expected to last much beyond a fortnight but through his sharp wit he manages to keep the monarch smiling while deftly navigating political entanglements so as to avoid the executioner’s axe long enough to take us through the story of six wives, three children, and the life of his king, employer, and friend.
Rather than being so much about Will Somers, Will Somers is, in fact, more the tale of Henry VIII as told through the eyes and the life of his favoured fool.
And all history should be told this way.
Yes, I know I’m repeating myself. Yes, I know I said the same thing about another of Pierre Brault’s solo shows, Blood on the Moon (about the murder of Thomas D’Arcy McGee) when it ran at the GCTC a few years back. And yes, I know that Will Somers isn’t intended to be nor is it close to historically accurate. But the sentiment stands. As a jumping in point, an initiation into the era and the life of one of England’s most well-known monarchs, Will Somers delivers all the entertaining engrossment you could want.
We’re not watching to see Will Somers get the girl, or overcome tyranny, or make some profound self-discovery. We’re watching, we’re engaged, because we’re caught up in the thrall of this seriously entertaining fool as our proxy into this world and this piece of our history.
Beyond all that, whether you’re interested in the history or not, Will Somers is just a damn great show.
Directed by AL Connors, Will Somers is created and solo-performed by Pierre Brault, a master at playing multiple characters. He exceptionally personifies well over a dozen here, ranging from Henry VIII himself, his children, his wives, his advisors, all the way down to the kitchen staff. It is an incredible illusion to achieve for a show to have you thinking back on it with just a tiny bit of cognitive dissonance in your head saying, “No, there had to have have been more people in that scene. How did he–”
You need to see it to appreciate it.
Brault’s Blood on the Moon (in which he also played nearly twenty characters) started with humble Ottawa Fringe Festival roots before a run at the National Arts Centre, a CBC television adaptation, and engagements in the far corners of the world. Will Somers at The Gladstone introduces a fool quick-witted and smartly funny enough to take him just as far. See it now so you can say you saw it when.
(And, seriously, put this in front of a class of high schoolers and I promise you they’ll be clamouring to start those upcoming lessons on the Tudor dynasty.)
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Were you a well entertained noble or were you wishing for the axe to drop on Will Somers? Did the show inspire you to want to learn more about the time and the people portrayed on stage? Join the discussion in the comments below and let me know.
Will Somers runs now through April 2 at The Gladstone. Full information: http://thegladstone.ca/will-somers.html