When Mark Gowland first put on a costume to impersonate Henry VIII for a outdoor photo shoot at King’s Manor in York he was unaware that six months later he’d be playing the role for real in York Theatre Royal’s community production Sovereign.

This mystery thriller, based on C.J Sansom’s series of novels featuring lawyer-detective Matthew Shardlake, is set in Tudor times as the monarch travels to York to ‘sort out’ the northern rebels.

The production will be staged outdoors at King’s Manor, where the book is partly set and where Henry set up court in 1541.

Mark dressed up as Henry for the photo shoot 'because it was a fun thing to do', now he’s playing the monarch for real in Sovereign, having been cast by co-director Juliet Forster, with whom he worked on projects for Out of Character theatre company.

For the photographs he wore a Henry costume borrowed from Shakespeare’s Globe in London. In the production he’ll wear an outfit specially made for him.

Mark has appeared in four previous community productions.

“I’ve really enjoyed the process of making theatre and getting to see the process from page to stage,” he says.

“I knew little bits about the Tudor period based on reading and dramas I’d seen but was less familiar with the friction between York and the King, and the North and the South.

"Obviously the Reformation had an effect throughout the country but it’s particularly interesting seeing how some York residents reacted to royalty and how local people reacted to Southerners coming up to York.”

Sovereign author CJ Sansom is no great fan of Henry VIII. “The more I read about him, the more my view of him is that he was a psychopath, “ he told Stephen Lewis in a York Press interview in 2009. “He was a murderous man, even by the standards of the time. He accrued all the power in the realm to himself, including taking over as head of the church. He’s been called the English Stalin. He was a vicious brute”.

Henry VIII’s outsize character and marital meanderings have featured in many stage, screen and music projects, from A Man For All Seasons to Carry On Henry to from the hit musical Six (in which his wives have their say).

Actors who’ve played him on screen range from Charles Laughton in an Oscar-winning performance to Sid James in a Carry On comedy.

Shakespeare, with John Fletcher, wrote a play about him entitled - what else? - Henry VIII, remembered not so much for its content but the fact that a fire during a performance resulted in the original Globe theatre being burnt to the ground.

Sovereign is being staged outdoors at King’s Manor from 15-30 July.