Back at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, for Queen Anne, a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Thalia and Melpomene were looking kindly on me this evening as I had one of the best seats in the house.
It took moment for me to warm to Queen Anne, both the character and the play.
The play is newly written by Helen Edmundson. Queen Anne reigned from 1702-1714, a reign largely remembered by Anglo Australians (if at all) for the style of furniture and architecture of the day. I was early enough to brush up on my history from the program.
The play involves all the intrigue and machinations of court and reminded me of the English Reformations with their pretense of piety and claims of the ‘truth’ when it was always about personal power. Some things never change – in politics and church. I got over it quickly though.
Princess Anne, the character, had an unhealthy relationship with Sarah Churchill. Initially this enamored obsession distracted her from obligations. Frankly it was annoying. We empathized with her situation – 17 miscarriages and a son who died aged eleven, but she is sickly and detached from the Royal goings-on even though she is heir to the throne.
However, Emma Cunniffe (below, right) triumphed in the role, and from her coronation on we loved Queen Anne more and more.
Sarah Churchill, played to perfection by Romola Garai (above left) was bad news, using Anne’s adoration for personal gain. She became queen bitch and play ends with her in disgrace. Thank goodness.
Politically correct as it may seem, I found the casting of black men as both William of Orange and John Churchill, visual nonsense.
Much is made of the newfound ‘freedom of the press’ following the repeal of the Licensing Act in 1695, allowing uncensored publications to be printed. Much was made of this ‘bad press’ in influencing the decision-making of Queen and advisors. Indeed, nothing has changed.
Anne was the last Stuart monarch and her reign is remembered for the uniting of England and Scotland – the United Kingdom, Anne’s pet project. Much amusement followed comments of the day, apt now in terms of devolution, successionism and Brexit.
Finely acted and good direction by Natalie Abrahami. Much more enjoyable than ‘The Ferryman’.
thank you Ian, it was a splendid review and although I can’t remember the decor when we visited the
Haymarket, for “Bequest to the Nation.” I can remember Zoe Calwell as Lady Hamilton, but I can’t remember
who played Nelson. I do remember the bed, an enormous heap of pillows of every description.
Interesting review. Yes, it must have been tough for Princess Anne trying so hard to procreate. If only she lived in today’s world it would be easier, but then we wouldn’t have the play. Black men seems to be a stretch of the imagination, in all ways. Thanks for another play to read the review and reflect on.