Six Dead Queens and An Inflatable Henry, directed by Shatarupa Bhattacharayya, is a play about Henry VIII and his six deceased wives, all hanging out and discussing various things, which leads to many moments of insight and hilarity. Director Shatarupa says, “When I was looking for a play with an all-woman cast, this one created by the all-female theatre group FourSight Theatre captivated me. Throughout the course of the play, the queens accept the challenge of being their true self, enemies are transformed into comrades, and the women behind the titles band together to raise a raucous royal coup against their fat, flaccid, inflatable spouse. Although the characters are from the past, the play definitely reflects upon problems and issues that women face at present, but of course through humour!”
She likes the play because it isn’t preachy. “The agony or the struggle that they talk about and how history only chose to focus on certain elements and thereby ignoring the other important facts, is a way of telling us how at present we, in fact, do the same while judging an event. Understanding this sub-text is key, but the way the play has been received has proved yet again how intelligent today’s audience is,” she asserts.
Ujaini Gosh, who plays Anne Boleyn, the second queen of Henry VIII, says she enjoyed essaying the role of this extremely charming and intelligent woman. “It’s such a strong and interesting character that is sarcastic, funny and confident all at the same time. It motivated me and has allowed me to explore and portray a lot of different shades of being sarcastic and aggressive yet emotional and confident while bringing alive her life and story of struggle. This character comes from a background of having significant force in the political and religious in-fighting at court and of the cause of Protestantism. She is also ultra-glamorous at all times, given her history of being a fashionista,” Ujaini shares.
Bhagyasree Kakoty, who enacted the role of fifth wife Katherine Howard, says, “The role speaks a lot about patriarchal society, about how it is okay for a king to have mistresses and marry whoever he likes but a queen is expected to be loyal to the king. This is relevant even in today’s times with women being called names for the same situations that men get away with. The role really seemed interesting to play, besides the fact that there are a lot of comical elements added by Katherine to the various scenes.”
She adds, “This play is about six dead queens who vent their desires, frustrations and experiences after life. It’s about their individual stories of struggle that, to some extent, draws parallels with recent times. The smallest example of this being the king’s wish for a son, an heir to his throne, every time from each of his queens. The play tries to convey the struggles of each queen, their desires and frustrations, which draw parallels in some way or the other to recent times.”