QUEEN ANNE – RSC, Stratford

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★★★★★
Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon – until 23 January 2016
Guest Reviewer: Simona Negretto

Commissioned by the RSC, Queen Anne is a new play by Helen Edmundson, directed by Natalie Abrahami in her debut season at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Little is known about Anne’s 12 year reign and Edmundson creates an intricate, intriguing and intelligent portrait of the Queen. She also captures a poignant observation upon the friendship between Anne and   Sarah Churchill, later Duchess of Marlborough.

What emerges is a neatly written play that moves the audience from deep laughter to overwhelmed silence in the same scene. With its satirical ballads, its perfectly directed staging and, most of all, a witty and sharp text, Queen Anne shows a not-so-common ability to depict a credible and colourful image of the politics and human condition of the time.

Intriguingly, Edmundson also creates two of the fiercest female roles to have been seen on stage in some time. Her look at the development of Emma Cunniffe’s Anne and Natascha McElhone’s Sarah and of their friendship (and eventually of its end) is a moving and mesmerizing experience encompassing love, betrayal and sacrifice.

Cunniffe embodies suffering, both physical and emotional as her Anne is divided between her duties as Queen and her heart and feelings as friend, whilst McElhone’s Sarah offers a bewitching crescendo of emotions.

Jonathan Broadbent delivers a scheming Robert Harley, representing the emergent political world and providing a link between the Anne’s court and the outside world of the Inns of Court, Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift.

The production’s flamboyance – especially in the choral and satirical scenes – owes much to the creative vision of Movement Director Ann Yee.

Helen Edmundson has delivered a fascinating and gripping historical comment. Queen Anne proves to be a story that has needed to have been told and which demands to be seen.

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Jonathan Baz
Theatre critic Jonathan Baz is London-based but with a coverage that extends far beyond the capital to include regional theatre as well as occasional forays into Europe and the USA. He enjoys reviewing new writing as much as seeing fresh interpretations of well-known plays and musicals. Jonathan also sits on the judging panel of London's Off West End Awards ("the Offies") and has published numerous interviews and features with leading figures in the film and theatre world. Away from the arts, Jonathan is a practising Chartered Accountant with a number of clients in the entertainment industries. He blogs at www.jonathanbaz.com and tweets at @MrJonathanBaz.
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Jonathan Baz on RssJonathan Baz on Twitter
Jonathan Baz
Theatre critic Jonathan Baz is London-based but with a coverage that extends far beyond the capital to include regional theatre as well as occasional forays into Europe and the USA. He enjoys reviewing new writing as much as seeing fresh interpretations of well-known plays and musicals. Jonathan also sits on the judging panel of London's Off West End Awards ("the Offies") and has published numerous interviews and features with leading figures in the film and theatre world. Away from the arts, Jonathan is a practising Chartered Accountant with a number of clients in the entertainment industries. He blogs at www.jonathanbaz.com and tweets at @MrJonathanBaz.

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