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Based on the extraordinary historic legend of the Queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe, Trisian Bernays Boudica, portrayed by Gina McKee immerses you in a rebellion you did not know you wanted to be a part of.
When King Prasutagus, the King of the Iceni Tribe dies, his wife the rightful Queen Boudica has come home to claim her throne. She has been living out in the forest in a self imposed exile for many years with her two daughters, Blodwynn the eldest played by Natalie Simpson and Alonna, played by Joan Lyiola, to teach them the importance self and skills in which they will need for leader ship one day. Upon her return, a lavishly well-dressed Catus Deciamus a roman procurator, beautifully executed by Samuel Collings, greets her, but not in a manner you would quite expect a Queen to be welcomed. He informs the Queen that due to her late husbands spending habits, herself and her daughters have no claim to what it rightfully theirs, and if that was not atrocious enough for the pleasure of Catus, they were now not citizens of Rome, but property. After the disgrace of what has happen to her entitlement and the abuse in which her daughters and herself have received. Queen Boudica is faced with a choice, enslavement or rebellion, and if McKee portrayal of the feminist icon had chosen the first option of the two, director Eleanor Rode, would not have much of a story to visually translate to the world-renowned stage of Shakespeare’s globe theatre.
Tom Piper, the designer for this production has cleverly created a set, which is both visually stimulating for the audience’s imagination but minimalistic enough for the stage to be open for practical uses. This comes into play on multiple of occasions throughout the production, whether it is for the opening scene of the production with three roman soldiers who are on guard, sarcastically expressing their love of the British isles, the British weather and the British women. Or for when Queen Boudica gruesomely cuts out the tongue of a Roman solider in the center of the Globe iconic thrust stage so not only can the audience see the rebellion in all of its glory, but if they are too close, them may be leaving with some of it on their clothing too as a souvenir.
A time where the use of the scenery really stood out in both visually and technical aspects is when Queen Boudica and her rebellion forcefully take the stage with their chaotic attack with planks of wooden falling down one by one revealing each member of the Celtic tribes that have joined in for her revenge of taking back what the romans have taken from her. Once the ‘Palaces’ gates have been knocked down she is revealed on stage, engulfed in smoke, light shining from behind her, with just the silhouette of Queen Boudica standing on a chariot. Whether this is a link to the Boudica statue that is based in London we do not know, but it was perfect. And there she was, the rightful Queen. The lightening was just incredible for this victorious moment, creating an atmospheric presents you just have to experience for yourself.
Another significant moment where the scenery and the lighting marry well together is when the fallen planks of wood are used to create the illusion of the trees within the forest, and it is one of the last times we see our Queen Boudica. Without giving too much away to those who are unfamiliar with the story of Boudica, (but if you know the history then you definitely know the ending to this heroic tale), this is a very heart-wrenching scene where the colour play of the lights from blue to red perfectly match the visuals before you.
The costumes, make up-and hair for this production are brilliantly done for visual representations of each and every character. With the romans there are in the signature red military clothing, with those who are higher up such as Catus Deciamus wearing heavily embellished, delicately woven luxury fabrics, golden garments. You can see his wealth from a mile of. Hair is all groomed and perfectly in place. This could not be more contrasting from the Celtic tribes, who appear to have more natural fabrics within their attire and the colours are natural dyed muted blue, greens, browns with textures of leather and fur, more of a humble less extravagated approach to clothing. However there was more involvement with the make-up and hair department with these characters, with the littlest of details giving their status away. Queen Boudica herself has her hair down with a loose braided crown, which has golden string incorporated within it. Her daughters have their hair braided after their mother; no hair crown as of yet as they do not own that status, but their hair was up. When they went into battle Queen Boudica had blue tribal handprints on either side of her temple, with the paint going into her hair. High enough to notice from a distance so you could see who was in charge. With blue tribal paint to distinguish those who are ready for battle and the effective use of blood and bruises in certain points of the play make the story in front of you seem ever so realistic with each second that passes.
But it is not just the stage in where you will see the actors perform. During the hunt for Queen Boudica, Roman soldiers are running through the audience, or when the soldiers are abseiling from the balconies and if you engaged in a very beautifully haunting candlelit vigil where the Celtic tribes have joined together. If you are standing for this production there is a real consuming atmospheric treat, and do not worry if you are seated for this show as you will get an odd surprises or two as well. Just remember to brush up on your lyrics of ‘London Calling” by The Clash before you go so that you can fully embrace the rebelling in the second act of the show.
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