Historical character actor keeps it in the family with King Henry VIII role

Torbay Weekly

Royalty is to visit Brixham - well, almost!

Jack Abbot, an actor who specialises in recreating historical characters has recently discovered he is, in fact, a cousin of King Henry VIII.

This is an amazing coincidence as Henry is one of his most popular and convincing creations as a performance historian.

Some of you may have heard of King Henry VIII if, for no other reason, that he had six wives. He was not very nice to them.

On September 25, his Royal Progress will take in Brixham Theatre.

He will halt here to afford his loyal subjects the opportunity to have an ‘audience’ with their Sovereign Lord and King.

During the ‘audience’, His Majesty will recount the events of his long reign, telling of his wives and children and will invite his loyal subjects to petition him or question him on any related subject.

So, get your thinking caps on!

There may be some surprising answers. Perhaps somebody will ask about his being related to Jack Abbot.

Jack has concentrated his energies on recreating characters from history for more than 25 years and has more than 30 in his repertoire.

He has appeared in many heritage, educational and corporate venues across the UK and the USA.

Jack is the holder of a ‘Performers Contract’ issued by the Royal Collections Trust (on behalf of the royal household), performing within Windsor Castle: the only performer to hold such a contract.

In real life, Jack Abbot is also the writer and producer, John White.

He has been passionate about history from an early age and equally passionate about acting.

The logical outcome was to combine the two.

His initial interest was focused on the Georgian and Regency periods, detailing aspects of 18th and early 19th century topics including military, social and domestic - areas of life with which we can all identify.

His decision to embrace Henry goes back to his family constantly telling him that his resemblance to the monarch was too good an opportunity to miss.

What finally rubber-stamped his destiny was when he saw a performance of Henry VIII and knew he could do it better.

This is a view shared by many peers and critics.

Ann Ellison, artistic director of the New Stage Theatre Company and The Mission Theatre, Bath wrote: "What a superb show. It was hard to believe we were not in the presence of the formidable monarch himself."

Stuart Newton, artistic director of Heron Theatre, Cumbria, praised John’s ‘magnetic performance’ particularly his ‘appropriate variety’ of ‘facial, hand and stance gestures’ supporting his ‘excellent script’.

And Gordon Ferguson, learning manager at Windsor Castle said: "John’s knowledge is boundless,  and he is wonderful at engaging the audience, both in and out of character."

John recalls an amusing incident when he arrived to perform at a U3A venue and the lady on the door asked if he was a member.

He informed her that he was, in fact, the booked performer. She replied ‘oh’ in a disappointed manner. John queried her reaction.

She explained that it was because he did not look like Elvis.

He asked why on earth he should look like Elvis.

She replied that it was supposed to be an audience with the King.

What John enjoys most about playing the role is the audience response.

Theatre goers often exclaim that it is like seeing a ghost. He routinely walks on stage to an audible gasp.

The warmth and appreciation of the audience is a priceless reward for his painstaking research and attention to detail.

Two of his other favourite characters are George III and the Prince Regent.

Divorced, Beheaded, Died, An Audience with King Henry VIII, is at Brixham Theatre on September 25, 7.30pm. Tickets cost £14, concessions, £12. Call the box office 01803 415987 or log on to www.brixhamtheatre.uk.