fringe: shakespeare's queens

shakespeare's queens: she-wolves and serpentsAlmost everything I said last year about Straylight Australia's production of Shakespeare's Mothers could equally be said about their production this year, Shakespeare's Queens: She-wolves and Serpents... I think the key phrase from my previous review, "act the living shit out of the various roles" still holds true.

This time, instead of the mothers, they delve into the queens (a number of whom were also mothers and appeared in the previous play also).

Returning from Mothers is the truly and insanely gifted Kath Perry who embodies nobility and poise on stage and who is joined this time by Patrick Trumper in the role of Shakespeare and Rachel Ferris as the other half of the queens.

The framing device for this show is a little different to the last one... Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots are joined in the here and now of the theatre by Shakespeare and they want him to solve a long running squabble between the two about the right way to be a queen.

They do this by embodying the various queens (and in Trumper's case all the male roles) for a scene with the use of minimal props.

That's part of what I truly love about this show (and it's predecessor), the way the two women can switch from Regan and Goneril to Fairy Queen Titania to Lady Macbeth to Anne Boleyn to Cleopatra and make them so distinct and unique with nothing more than their skill as actresses and an army of scarves plus the occasional bit of jewellery. Oh, and a couple of killer corsets.

They also know how to build to a brilliant climax... the two final queens, Ferris as Cleopatra and Perry as Tamora, Queen of the Goths from Titus Andronicus (who she also played in the previous play, if my memory serves me correctly) are amongst the most powerful of the lot... although there really isn't any part of the show that isn't amazing.

I absolutely loved Ferris's brilliant comic timing, either as Mary between "changes" or in some of the roles (her far too brief turn as a Golum-like Puck is brilliant), and she just seems to be made for the Shakespearean comedies... Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing or Kate in Taming of the Shrew (although neither appeared in this show, not being queens). But she can also turn on an intensity, particularly with Lady Macbeth, that was wonderful.

As I've already mentioned, Perry is a powerhouse on stage... embodying everything regal and contained in Elizabeth I, providing a bloody-thirsty Tamora, a haughty (if sadly brief) Titania, three stages of Queen Margaret from several of the Henrys and Richard III and an amazing Queen Katherine pleading for her life from Henry VIII.

Just like last time, I find it very hard to tear myself away from talking about the women to talk about the actor playing all the male roles, but Trumper completely holds his own with these two amazing ladies... often having to become almost invisible while his leading lady shines, which I'm sure is harder than it looks.

If Trumper has a standout moment I think it would have to be his Richard III, not least of all from the way he embodies the character with one tiny prop.

I'm not sure if there's much left to stretch this concept to a third outing (I'm not sure there's another easy category to Shakespearean women beyond mothers and queens), but I really would love for them to try, as it's always a pleasure!

Even if you don't consider yourself a Shakespeare fan, I still highly recommend that you check this one out.

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