Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Solo dance and theater performance about personalities from the medieval and Tudor past, asking old yet unanswered questions about gender and power. Based on Helen Castor’s book/BBC series. Choreography by UK National Dance award winner Jonathan Watkins.
Alone on stage with a transforming set piece that becomes a throne, a window, a well, and a boudoir mirror, Laura Careless takes us on a her one-woman journey through time as various female historic personalities. A heady history lesson of female rulers starting with Matilda and ending with Elizabeth and the English Golden Age; she narrates their story in beautiful period costumes with the aid of projected animation and dates, and intervals of dance and song.
Knitted together with a full musical underscore, the solo performer holds the stage for a 55 min performance: we see Matilda running through the snow, we see battles and hear about beheadings and political intrigue. Above all, we hear about how these personages were striving to take mastery over their own lives and sometimes their own county, and were frequently demeaned or dis-empowered by the patriarchy.
The performer is a lovely dancer, with clear ballet and modern technique shining through, and the more abstract dance sections of the production are highlights of dramatic expression- a jubiliant dance in full Elizabethan garb was a fully satisfying interval, as was the dramatic integration of animated arrows flying through the sky with a battle dance performed in front of the projection. Ms Careless is a strong theatrical performer, but I found myself wishing that there were more moments of danced expression and fewer literal historic fact recitations. The set-piece was cleverly playful but also slightly awkward in use. The ambitious costumes were particularly effective when they allowed the movement to shine; and a fur-trimmed vest and short corset were particularly effective in revealing movement. The performer also has a beautiful singing voice which is used to good effect, in singing a satire of the period villainizing the queen.
This is a Good Show, ambitious and very capably performed.