Adelaide Fringe 2011
Rebecca Vaughan, Guy Masterson
Venue: Higher Ground - Main Theatre
Festival: Adelaide Fringe
An amazing performance, coupled with with a detailed and beautifully constructed script combine to create a truly breathtaking experience. Convincingly playing Elizabeth I as both a woman and a queen, Rebecca Vaughan is an incredible talent. Directed by the award-winning Guy Masterson, I, Elizabeth is an unmissable night at the theatre.
This play takes the audience through many of the major stages and conflicts of Elizabeth’s reign. These include her advisors constant pleas for her marital union; her disagreements and moral conundrums regarding her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots; her thoughts on war, religion and politics and her vulnerabilities as a woman; and as the ruler of one of the most powerful countries in the world. The soliloquy is honest emotion and compelling history wrapped into a flowing and complex script and riveting performance. While the depth of history that is explored may confuse a few audience members, rectify this simply by picking up a program from the helpful front-of-house staff that gives a background to the political and personal events referred to during the play.
It was often said of Laurence Olivier that he spoke Shakespearean language as if he were truly thinking it. This is how I felt about Rebecca Vaughan watching her power through an emotionally engaging script that she had written herself from Elizabeth’s own material. She was so convincing – not just in her pale skinned and red-headed looks – but her mannerisms, bearing and most especially her commanding voice and use of language. The minimal set allowed all eyes to focus on Vaughan as she went through an amazing emotional range, from sadness, to fear, to anger, to disdain, to love, to doubt and so on. Elizabeth’s strengths and vulnerabilities were both equally apparent. It becomes evident why Elizabeth was one of England’s most powerful monarchs. Her astute political mind, her cunning intelligence, her honesty with herself, her female compassion, and her strong desire for peace were all touched upon in this remarkable performance.
The audience is instantly transported to 16th Century England as Elizabeth talks to them (her internal vision of the English people) about a petition she had received from her advisors that wished her to marry and produce an heir. Emotional engagement and sympathies stay with her throughout, particularly in a very powerful prayer she offered to God towards the end of the play to overcome her self doubts. The history that was covered was fascinating to hear from Elizabeth’s personal point of view and should enlighten viewers that weren’t so informed of the period. While there were possibly unnecessary flashes of lighting and sound that denoted a change in theme, it didn’t detract at all from Rebecca’s absorbing portrayal of Elizabeth and the flow of the script.
This truly remarkable performance is a must-see for anyone who loves history, appreciates an incredible production in terms of acting, writing, costuming, staging, directing and producing, or just anyone who wants an engaging night at the theatre. It is an absolute master class and I can’t recommend this highly enough.