“Vaughn’s command of the stage is utterly iron-fisted.”
The two hardest things as an actor, at least in my experience, are to memorise your lines and then make to them appear spontaneous and real. To do so without ever losing energy, alone and over a period of a straight hour is nothing short of astounding – and, a feat which Rebecca Vaughn pulls off as Queen Elizabeth nearly effortlessly.
I, Elizabeth is a monologue act pieced together from the Tudor Queen’s assorted letters, poems and private correspondence, and offers a glimpse into the chaotic and rich emotional life behind one of England’s most memorable rulers as presented by the Queen herself.
Vaughn’s character work is undeniably slick: she channels both regality and humility so realistically and so honestly that, even watching from the front, I often forgot I was watching an act at all. And even more impressive was her talent at making irregular, Tudor-style cadence not only make sense to a modern audience, but do it so well that it becomes compelling and, when she wants it to, genuinely funny. Unlike her character’s sometimes shaky political life, Vaughn’s command of the stage is utterly iron-fisted.
But Vaughn’s considerable talent cannot suspend reality by itself, and was aided by a very talented makeup and costume team; the result being a costume with such substance and attention to detail that it wouldn’t have looked out of place in a high-budget period drama. However, just as Vaughn portrayed a partly flawed monarch, so did her performance. Occasionally her emotional energy bordered on the melodramatic, and her tight emotional u-turns sometimes meant that gaps of monologue were lost as the volume increased. And perhaps I’m simply not smart enough to understand it, but some of the tech decisions- particularly a strange, electrical jolting sound to punctuate the monologue – seemed utterly out of place in what was otherwise a very faithful historical recreation, and sometimes completely broke the show’s atmosphere.
Despite these shortcomings, the rest of the show was nothing short of regal. Vaughn should be praised for her unmistakeable dedication to character work. Short of necromancy, it seems she is the woman to call for bringing the long dead back to complex, compelling life.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 7 August)
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