The question, should women operate like men when given power, or should they use their femininity and maintain their traditional role, is viewed from a different angle in Shakespeare’s Queens: She-wolves and Serpents. In Straylight Australia’s latest offering, Kath Perry uses the works of William Shakespeare to seek to answer the question, should queens rule their countries like a King would, or should they focus on producing an heir to the throne.
With a simple set of a row of stools across the back of the stage, and a dressing partition on either side of the stage, complete with wig stand and chair, the key characters, Mary Queen of Scots (Rachel Ferris), Queen Elizabeth I (Kath Perry) are ghosts with an ongoing debate filling their conversations. Queen Elizabeth I, branded a ‘she-wolf’, believes that a Queen should rule as a King would. Mary Queen of Scots believes that a Queen should produce an heir to the throne, and use her femininity as her contribution to her country, a ‘serpent’. William Shakespeare (Patrick Trumper) finally joins the two Queens upon his death, and they are transported through time to modern day Adelaide, where the Queens ask Shakespeare to help settle their argument, given that he has written so many plays about Queens.
The play works through fourteen of Shakespeare’s works regarding Kings and Queens, real and fictional, with the trio agreeing to play the various roles in order to end the debate. Ferris, Perry, and Trumper work through the various roles, with minor additions to costumes to indicate a new character. Between the scenes, the three ghosts narrate so that an in-depth knowledge of the full works is not required. Mary Queen of Scots also continues her ongoing ‘grudge’ against her sister regarding her demise, which adds a nice layer of humour, and Queen Elizabeth I throws in some interesting observations about her title as the Virgin Queen.
The three actors are very capable, with good clear voices. Ferris adds lightness to the trio, particularly when she takes on the supporting roles, or as Mary Queen of Scots as a narrator, with amusing facial expressions. Perry does the formidable Queen Elizabeth I justice and Trumper plays Shakespeare with the right level of artistic flair and respect for the royalty he is sharing his afterlife with. All three move through the various characters smoothly and maintain the pace of the show which, to fit in fourteen excerpts plus a connecting thread, is very fast.
This is a wonderfully written play that is bound to reignite people’s interest in Shakespeare and get people thinking about the women in our modern world. Are they she-wolves or serpents?
A must for anyone who likes a piece of theatre where they are both entertained and asked to think, anyone who has ever tried to wrap their head around Shakespeare, and anyone who is interested in the way people work.
Reviewed by Jade Kops, special guest Fringe Critic, Glam Adelaide
Venue: Main Stage, Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angus Street, Adelaide
Season: 7:30pm, Tues 13 – Sat 17 March 2012
Tickets: Adults $22, BankSA Customer $18, BankSA Support Act $10, Concession $18, Fringe Benefits $18, Group $18
Bookings: Fringetix 1300-FRINGE (1300-374643), their outlets, or online