Skip to content

FringeGuru

Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2012 arrow Shakespeare's Queens: She-Wolves and Serpents
 
Shakespeare's Queens: She-Wolves and Serpents
Published on Friday, 24 August 2012
4

4 stars

Just the Tonic at The Caves (venue website)
Theatre
1-2 Aug, 6:00pm-7:20pm; 3-12, 14-25 Aug, 2:00pm-3:00pm, 6:00pm-7:20pm; 13 Aug, 2:00pm-3:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Recommended for age 12+ only.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen Of Scots host this entertaining canter through Shakespeare’s Collected Works, plucking out scenes which highlight the Bard’s approach to his fictional queens.  The plot’s a simple, but wonderfully effective one: continuing their historic quarrel in the afterlife, the two monarchs summon the spirit of Shakespeare, using short extracts from a range of his plays to pass pointed comment on their own dispute.  The resulting debate treads a well-chosen line between education and entertainment, fiction and history; meanwhile, quietly elegant costumes and some highly impressive acting make this a worthy contemplation of the great man’s work.

The one Shakespearean queen everyone knows about – Lady Macbeth – is there of course, and Rachel Ferris produces a horribly creepy portrayal, excitable rather than sociopathic.  But the script isn’t afraid to delve into the lesser-studied parts of the Folio; by my count, the hour-long performance features scenes from 14 plays in all.  I confess I occasionally lost track during the likes of Cymbeline… but there’s a handy crib-sheet included with the programme, which helps you follow who’s who.

The plays-within-a-play format offers plentiful opportunity for a bit of entertaining over-acting, which the two queens embrace with gusto.  Perhaps a little too much gusto, in fact; the performance occasionally acquires a pantomime aspect, which didn’t sit that easily with me.  When they choose to get serious, on the other hand, the vignettes are of a consistently high quality, with Patrick Trumper (who plays all the male roles) delivering a particularly committed performance despite the demands of flitting from scene to scene.

Kath Perry – who plays half of the queens, as well as penning the adaptation – lends gravitas to all her roles, especially in her character as the (real) Queen Elizabeth I.  Throwing Elizabeth into the mix was an inspired move on Perry’s part, grounding us firmly in Shakespeare’s own era and setting the historical context within which his work must be viewed.  Perry’s Elizabeth is gloriously imperious – able to pour foul scorn with the best of them – but I was a little less taken by her sparring partner, Mary.  Rachel Ferris is clearly a talented actress and will surely have a good few accents in her repertoire, but it must be said that this particular Queen of Scots sounded distinctly Australian.

So what’s the play’s big message?  It’s intriguingly hard to say.  Shakepeare’s queens include some strong characters, but – as the performance delicately points out – they’re often in the shadow of even stronger men.  And those who do actively steer the plot, like Lady Macbeth or Lear’s daughters, are often malign influences on those around them.  The themes exposed by the procession of scenes posed some interesting questions around historic misogyny, and I was a little disappointed that the script didn’t explicitly tackle them.

But then again, the fact I’ve just written that paragraph might be proof of Shakespeare’s Queens’ success.  This is, I think, a kind of Bardic amuse-bouche, designed to whet your appetite rather than leave you sated.  And for all that it’s occasionally cartoonish, it achieves a worthy balance between accessibility and intelligence, both through its selection of scenes and the parallels it draws with history.  I don’t know what a true aficionado would make of this romp – but for those who’d like to know a bit more Shakespeare, it’s an ideal route in.

<< Dirty Hands   Tony Law Maximum Nonsense >>

FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

Edinburgh 2012 Five Stars

5 stars Comedy
Totally Tom


5 stars Comedy
The Magical Adventures of Pete Heat


5 stars Theatre
Bye Bye World


5 stars Comedy
Barbershopera: The Three Musketeers


5 stars Comedy
Truth


5 stars Theatre
The House of Shadows


5 stars Cabaret
Briefs


5 stars Theatre
Made for Each Other - Free


5 stars Comedy
Tony Law: Nonsense Overdrive


5 stars Comedy
Ivo Graham and Liam Williams


5 stars Comedy
Hannibal Buress: Still Saying Stuff


5 stars Comedy
The Blanks' Big Break


5 stars Theatre
A Clockwork Orange


5 stars Comedy
Richard Wiseman: Psychobabble


5 stars Comedy
Martin Mor: A Man You Donít Meet Everyday


5 stars Theatre
1984


5 stars Comedy
Swedenborg, the Devil and Me


5 stars Theatre
The Trench


5 stars Theatre
Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut


5 stars Theatre
Joyced!


5 stars Theatre
An Evening With Dementia


5 stars Comedy
Scott Agnew: Tales of the Sauna


5 stars Theatre
Comedian Dies in the Middle of Joke


5 stars Comedy
Chris Ramsey: Feeling Lucky


5 stars Comedy
The Horne Section - Live at the Grand!


5 stars Theatre
How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found


5 stars Theatre
The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle


5 stars Theatre
Songs of Lear


5 stars Cabaret
Jonny Woo: Wonder Woo-Man


5 stars Comedy
Josie Long: Romance and Adventure


5 stars Comedy
10 Films With My Dad


5 stars Theatre
4.48 Psychosis


5 stars Theatre
As You Like It


5 stars Theatre
Appointment With The Wicker Man


5 stars Comedy
Jessie Cave: Bookworm


5 stars Comedy
Morgan & West: Lying, Cheating Scoundrels


5 stars Theatre
Hearts on Fire


5 stars Theatre
Rainbow


5 stars Comedy
Chris Dangerfield: Sex Tourist


5 stars Comedy
Chris McCausland: Not Blind Enough


5 stars Theatre
Chatroom


5 stars Comedy
Peacock & Gamble Don't Even Want To Be On Telly Anyway


5 stars Theatre
I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You


5 stars Comedy
John Robertson - The Dark Room - Free


5 stars Kids'
Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and His Singing Tiger