The Captive Queen at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
When beauty blinds a man’s judgement, chaos is bound to follow. Director Barrie Rutter takes the audience to a conclusion of Armageddon proportions with his last production for Northern Broadsides, the company he co-founded 25 years ago, by re-adapting John Dryden’s 1675 play Aureng-zebe as The Captive Queen, a story of love, power and revenge.
The Captive Queen premiered yesterday at Shakespeare’s Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse with a promising cast, including Rutter himself as the Emperor. Relocated to a 20th-century mill setting in Northern England, the play still contains the exotic air of Agra enhanced with live-performed Indian tunes. The old Emperor falls in love with Indamora (Neerja Naik), who is promised to one of his sons, Aurangzeb. When his son finds out, the drama begins to unfold. By the interval there are four men in love with the captive queen, all bewitched by her looks. And this only brings vengeance, because when there is no love what else is left?
The Emperor’s sons’ stepmother, Nourmahal (Angela Griffin), understands this only too well. Known mostly for parts in various soap operas, Griffin seems a little out of her depth with the classic tone. However, she delivers an intense, likeable performance that stands out, making theatregoers laugh in spite of the tragedy. Her northern accent suits her well, as does her sassiness. Together with Rutter, who is said to love rhyming couplets, they win the audience.
A sober stage design evokes India as do the costumes of coloured silks worn on top of ordinary blue overalls, but they would be impotent without the show-stealing music, which builds up the tension and announces the tragedy. The trio behind it all deserve a mention: Laurence Corns’s fabulous guitar, Keval Joshi’s elegant percussion, and Nawazish Ali Khan’s voice, which transports the audience to the magical allure of India.
The Captive Queen’s tale of pride, lust, despair and betrayal told in rhyming couplets might not be for everyone. But if high drama, excellent music, a diverse cast and an exotic twist sounds like your cup of tea, then this is a theatrical event that ought to be experienced.
Photo: Nobby Clark
The Captive Queen is at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from 2nd February until 4th March 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.