Bloody Mary Live! review â an audience with the killer queen
Y ou might consider the fraught life of Mary Tudor, Englandâs first queen, for a long time before thinking: standup comedy. But thatâs the leap Olivia Miller has made with this punky solo, first performed in her home town of New York. It reimagines Mary as an in-yer-face Gen-Z teen, back from the dead to reprise her lurid life story, defend her name and justify that small matter of 280 heretics burned alive.
She makes a good fist of it. In fishnets and bovver boots, Miller shows off her standup chops, if not always in the quality of the jokes then in the dazzle and charm with which she brings her crowd on side. The repeated technique is to mine inappropriate intimacies (âraise your hand if youâve imagined your parents having sex?â), then demonstrate how our experiences canât touch hers. Her parentsâ sex life is a matter of national debate, while Mary is put on the marriage market from two years old. Her mum is then exiled, never to be seen again, while dad upends a kingdom, affronts God and murders multiple wives, all to right the wrong of Maryâs unsatisfactory gender.âRaise your hands if youâve imagined your parents having sexâ â¦ Miller bringing the crowd on side. Photograph: Ashley Garrett Photography
Millerâs show only gestures at rehabilitating Maryâs reputation: she rages at her âBloody Maryâ nickname, then embraces it. The showâs ahistorical stylings, as our host wisecracks about therapy and condemns the homophobia of 21st-century Catholicism, give her story a tart immediacy, but make the tonal shifts tricky when Miller bids later for emotional effect. But under Olivia Munkâs direction, this short show leaves a vivid impression, of an avenging ex-queen sharp-elbowing out from her predecessorâs and successorâs shadows.
At Assembly Festival Garden, Coventry, until 5 September