Edinburgh Fringe 2010
I, Elizabeth is a chronicle of the trials and tribulations of the personal and professional life of Elizabeth I (Rebecca Vaughan). Performed in the first person, the premise of the show is Elizabeth talking candidly to us, audience and privy council, about marriage, her sister Mary and the problems faced by a female monarch.
The set is designed to infer an intimate space, perhaps in the queen’s private chambers. The few props and costume place us firmly in the sixteenth century and have been beautifully designed by Kate Flanaghan. The writing is highly accomplished; Vaughan (writer and performer) manages to capture the style of literary post-medieval English which borders on Shakespearean at times. Vaughan gives a strong delivery conveying the human side of the famous monarch.
Her sporadic frustrated outbursts are easy to relate to, particularly when talking about Mary. Here Vaughan expresses the rivalries and irritations which exist in every sibling relationship. The direction was simple yet affective; Elizabeth retains her queenly control for the most part but occasionally exposes the more passionate side of her with faster movements and gesture. It was hard to understand the significance of the stuttering light bulb which was accompanied by sounds of static and triggered by certain things said by the protagonist; as the only modern element of the play, it could have had a clearer significance.
Although this show is hard to flaw technically, its heavy content, old English language and single performer make it hard to engage with for the full hour. The audience, responsive at first to the comic aspects of the show, by the end were struggling to stay focussed and more than one fell asleep. This is not to say that Vaughan did not do what she set out to do, and she did this well. Rather, the show is remarkably heavy and lacks a certain spark which keeps an audience with it. The word dull is unhelpful and yet, on leaving this performance, it was the one which kept presenting itself to me. Perhaps a good show for Shakespeare lovers and very serious theatre-goers.