Boudica at Shakespeare’s GlobeCultureTheatre
Her name has been marked in history: part fact, part legend. The name is Boudica, and she was an iconic Icenic tribal queen who led a bloody uprising against the Roman Empire. Though it’s a famous classroom story, some facts are famously unknown, allowing playwright Tristan Bernays to artistically fill in some gaps and bring both the battle conflict and a maternal conflict into an action-packed production at the Globe.
This softer, maternal side to the fierce warrior is a concept thoroughly explored throughout Boudica. The spotlight often lies on her daughters, Blodwynn (Natalie Simpson) and Alonna (Joan Iyiola), foils who embody opposing quests for vengeance and peace. This familial focus puts the human touch on Bernays’s imagination of events, even if it treads a fine line towards the over-dramatic. However, only praise can be said about Simpson and Iyiola who play their roles with utter conviction.
Boudica herself is portrayed by award-winning actress Gina McKee, who expertly commands the stage with vigour and a suitable majestic presence. McKee flits effortlessly from Warrior Queen icy threats to emotional pleas, but there’s just something missing from the wild and unruly side of textbook Boudica. Perhaps she is just better at capturing the vulnerability than the barbarism. Perhaps, even, this is the intention.
The dialogue is half-Shakespearean, half-expletives. Almost. There is a bold, seamless combination of soliloquies that would make the old Bard proud and humorous colloquialism, such as jokes about balls in the opening scene. This lighthearted tone is juxtaposed with the tragedy and seriousness of war, and Bernays strikes an effective balance. There’s contemporary political subtext that adds an additional layer of thoughtfulness too, though not necessarily intentional.
As Boudica and her allies rally together, the audience can expect a range of unexpected production elements along the way; from a sing-song to The Clash to live-action ziplining and abseiling for good measure. The Globe Theatre is wonderfully utilised and Eleanor Rhode’s bold direction pays off. Furthermore, the live drumming adds an urgent tribal feel, and the stage set of wooden planks are gradually rearranged subtly – simple but effective.
Putting conflict under the microscope, with complex characters and a demonstration of strong female power, Boudica is a theatrical triumph. Talk of kingdoms, retribution and reclaiming land will resonate well with Game of Thrones fans, but this is an original epic. Boudica is never short of powerful, bloodthirsty performances. It may not be Shakespearean text, but it fits on stage perfectly at the Globe.
Photo: Steve Tanner
Boudica is at Shakespeare’s Globe from 8th September until 1st October 2017. For further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Boudica here: