Eileen Page first played Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1964, but it wasn’t until many years later, when she was 70, that she first laid claim to the one-woman play that has so firmly associated her with the role. Have a look at and listen to our interview with her as that legendary performance is now released on audio by B7 Media.
Eleanor of Aquitaine: Mother of the Pride, written by the late Catherine Muschamp, showcases a remarkable one-woman performance by veteran actress Eileen Page, bringing to life another formidable woman, far ahead of her time.
Eleanor Aquitaine (1137-1204) witnessed and influenced some of the Middle Ages’ most dramatic events, including the murder of Thomas Becket and her own rivalry with Henry II’s mistress, ‘fair’ Rosamund Clifford. A woman of extraordinary courage, beauty and iron will – uniquely, Queen of France then Queen of England and mother of two English Kings – Eleanor of Aquitaine’s name was legendary even before her death.
Eileen Page first performed Catherine Muschamp’s play 22 years ago. In May 2018, the play was revived for three performances only, as part of Tara Arts’ “I’ll Say It Again!” month-long festival of work by female artists, celebrating the centenary of women’s suffrage in the UK. The performance is now released as both CD and digital download by independent producer B7 Media.
Page’s 70-year career encompasses Shakespeare, contemporary writers, musical theatre, film and television. Her long association with the RSC included Peter Brook’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, Henry V with Paul Scofield, Mother Courage, Richard II, The Winter’s Tale and Waste with Judi Dench.
Eileen on Eleanor
That I am Eleanor
Queen of England and once of France.
“Eleanor I did in 1964, I was far too young, but that’s what happens when you’re in repertory, you play all those parts. But then in about 1977, James Goldman wrote a played called The Lion in Winter, which was filmed eventually with Peter O’Toole and Katie Hepburn (as Eleanor of Aquitaine) and I did it at Liverpool Playhouse and played it for four weeks and just loved it; in fact I’ve got some fantastic photographs, you know. That would have been 1977, but that’s a long time ago.
“And then you know, time went on and I got older and older and older and like, the work sort of dried up and I thought now what do I do? And a very dear old friend of mine said, ‘oh, I’ve got a play about Eleanor of Aquitaine, I’ve had it for about 17 years and I could never, ever have learnt it, Eileen.’ And I said oh, Eleanor Of Aquitaine, oh that’s interesting, because I’ve played her! And to cut a long story short, she gave me the script and I took it home. Something in it said to me, ‘this is fantastic if you could ever learn it.’
“I was 70 then. I got in touch with the woman who’d written it and said look, I don’t know whether I’m crazy or whatever, but there’s something in this that appeals to me and I’d really, really, really like to have a go. I don’t know whether I’d ever be able to get anyone to put it on, but all could ever do was just learn it. It’s very dense.
“I used to wake up in the middle of the night, go through it, and through it, and through it. It’s so easy you know, you take a wrong line and you’re in another part of the play! Oh, it’s a bastard.”