Edinburgh Fringe 2009
The Regina Monologues
Robert Inston's Reduced Tudor Company
Venue: Spotlites @ Merchant’s Hall
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
Robert Inston is known for his historical women, and this performance is another in his portrayals of female historical figures. Nicely performed, Inston instantly captures a character and situation, and his delivery is perfect for the small performance space at the Merchant’s Hall. Unfortunately, the performance is of a much higher standard than the writing and production, with many elements poorly and awkwardly staged. However, Inston’s panache and performance skills more than make up for these intricacies, and the performance can be enjoyed easily. A little more attention to detail, and this could easily rise to very lofty heights indeed.
The story told is of Queen Elizabeth I, the famous ‘virgin’ queen, and her rise to power and subsequent actions as Queen of England. Elizabeth, famously, never married, and her actions during her reign included repelling the Spanish Armada. Inston tells us tales from her life from her perspective, a listing and discussion of some of her most famous decisions as the monarch, as well as some of the events from her personal life. In doing so, a character is created that is both kind and imperious, gentle and direct; the character of this often mythologised historical figure is made real by Inston, performing in sumptuous costume and surroundings.
What makes The Regina Monologues so watchable is Inston himself: his performance as Elizabeth is truly excellent. He captures her character and motives very quickly, and delivers his lines in a high-pitched, yet not ludcrous voice. The transformation is uncanny. It is impossible to shake the awareness that this is a man in women’s clothing, but the character of Elizabeth has always straddled the sexes. She said of herself that she had the heart of the man, which is often used romantically to assert her reasons for staying unmarried. Inston’s portrayal is, somehow, much more humanised; a character aware of her role in the world, of the poise and intimate person she must become to assert herself as queen. For a man in woman’s clothing, this is an impressive transformation.
Unfortunately, what Inston is saying is far less subtle. The lines bounce between addled conversation and set speeches; while the gist that comes across is great, the lines themselves are more than a little muddled. Also, the speeches are currently a little hammy, especially the final piece. A bit of refinement and fine-tuning on the script would do wonders here. Also, while the room the piece is being performed in is perfect for it, the staging and technicality is a little bizarre. The tech, who was in plain sight at the back, seemed to miss cues, and play music too loudly or quietly, and the lights were about as basic as you can get. Some proper staging for this piece, and a more refined technical set-up, would also not go amiss. Finally, while Inston’s costume was certainly well-presented, it looked, in places, a little cheap.
This whole piece could do with just a smidgeon of refinement, and it could be a marvelous success. Moving it to a slightly better known venue and tweaking the above would get it much more of the attention it deserves, as would a change in the title. ‘The Regina Monologues’ is a direct theft from The Simpsons, and beyond that, explains little about the piece. A more deserving title, plus the above, would get Inston’s performance the credit it deserves; he is a very talented performer, and deserves more attention!