Shakespeare wrote a lot about royalty, and Queens are fairly essential to royalty, so it makes sense that Shakespeare wrote a lot about Queens. This play sews a thread between all of Shakespeare's Queens, from Lady Macbeth up north, to Cleopatra in the south. It borrows select chunks direct from the Bard, tying them together with a sense of order and coherence in place of a binding narrative. We're guided by three people: William himself, Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots, who dive into the pages of these plays, as well as providing their own commentary.
Essentially, it's best taken as a Shakespeare play for Shakespeare fans, and in that regard it's cleverly done. Witty asides bite sharply but are not laboured, and the sweeping surveys of these complex women do well to retain and enhance, through critique, their original character. The pace rockets along as the three tightly focussed actors clearly relish each role they adopt with playful interpretation.
The way that the cast are able to rapidly create new worlds with little details and references, while flitting in and out of varying levels of meta-textuality, is the greatest strength of this piece. The set and costumes are used cleverly, and while the blocking is at times a little clunky, the direction usually conveys this weaving journey clearly.
To be pedantic, the lighting didn't hit the mark at a few points. It is always bewildering to find a stool lit better than an actor speaking. I also sometimes found the sincerity and enthusiasm for the subject a little too much to bear. It was not necessarily 'one-dimensional', and if you do not dig Shakespeare you can still understand it, but the show's celebration of Shakespeare's regal she-animals is constant.
I suppose, if you dig it, you dig it. The lady in my row did: "So clever. Wasn't it clever. Very, very clever. So clever....Very, very clever, wasn't it. Wasn't that clever..." I think she kept going, but I got what she was saying by then.
Straylight Australia present
Shakespeare's Queens: She-wolves and Serpents
by Kath Perry and William Shakespeare
Director Roz Riley
Venue: The Bakehouse Theatre | 255 Angas Street, Adelaide
Dates: 27 Feb – 17 Mar 2012
Tickets: A $22/Conc, FB, BSA, Groups (6+) $18/School - YEP $10/Special Offer for THURS MATINEES ONLY - Groups (6+) $10