QUEEN ANNE (play)
Ends 30th September 2017.
1702. The wife of King William III comes under pressure from her friend Sarah,
Duchess of Marlborough, as a power struggle looks set to play out.
Emma Cunniffe takes the title role in this Royal Shakespeare Company transfer
from the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.
(seen at the afternoon performance on 2nd September 2017).
Filling in one
of those gaps in knowledge left by school history lessons, this is a solid,
sometimes a little stolid lesson from Helen Edmundson. A weak Queen (perfect
Emma Cunniffe) gains power and becomes less easy for her friend (Romola Garai on
top form, too - and a peach of a costume, too) to manipulate. The machinations
of court life, as a poor relative (Beth Park in a standout honest performance).
As fortunes wax and wane with good men like Godolphin (Richard Hope) shunted
aside and war rages, battles for hearts and minds are fought with wit.
The bawdy commentaries provide punctuation and breathing spaces - and rather
unexpected fun. With the usual RSC attention to detail, the music is live, the
costumes even livelier and the whole moves pretty smartly along. The time
doesn't exactly fly by - particularly in the first half with one or two
over-long establishing scenes, but it repays attention and it makes a change for
the West End to have a play that truly engages the mind as well as entertains.
As professional reviewers note, you won't need a history background either,
as it's self-explanatory. A very decent production that seems to have landed too
cruelly in the wrong season to find the audience it deserves. Make sure you are
one of them before it ends. It's a 4 star event.