Venue: The Stanley Theatre
Date(s): 27 September - 28 October, 2001
Reviewer: Jane Penistan
Elizabeth Rex is a beautifully constructed and well-written play about
what might have happened. So well does Findley write his characters
that the play unfolds as a believable documentary from the 17th
Century. On the eve of his death Shakespeare, in his barn, remembers
the night of Shrove Tuesday 1601, the evening before the execution of
the Earl of Essex. Knowing that she has condemned her one time beloved
to death for treason and unable to face the agony of the long night
alone, Queen Elizabeth seeks distraction and solace in the company of
actors who have been sequestered in a barn in the royal yards.
Issues of loyalty and betrayal, duty and desire, political expediency and personal longings are all explored. The dilemma of whether the actor playing a woman is any less a man, or, that he understands how a woman thinks, and the role of the queen who must rule as a man but has a woman's understanding and sensitivity are argued with wit and deep sympathy.
Within the company of actors Queen Elizabeth finds herself criticized and contradicted, a stark change from the obsequiousness of loyal and disloyal courtiers. Gabrielle Rose is regal and has a commanding presence as the queen. The 17th Century actor who is unafraid of the queen's wrath, prepared to ague with her, and open her eyes to herself and her subjects' true opinions, Ned Lowenscroft, is played by the very versatile, David Marr. This is a splendid performance of an incredibly perceptive character.
Findley has filled this play with a company of actors all of whom are recognisable "in the biz", and Janet Wright has directed this company so well that no one recognisable character actor is overplayed. The young men playing women in Much Ado are charming and becomingly modest of their achievements, as themselves. Ron Halder's Shakespeare is thoughtful and credible. There is a subtle difference between those who are of the acting company and those who are not. Thus, Cecil (Greg Rogers), an affected and posturing courtier, despising the company the queen is keeping, is much less a true subject than the vagrant players. Elizabeth's ladies, the aged Countess of Henslowe (Esme Lambert) and young Lady Stanley (Lara Rose Tansey) are supportive and unobtrusive. The lavish dress and manners of the court are contrasted with the tattered costumes and the frankness of the company of players.
The opportunity to see this excellent play so well directed and performed is one not to be missed This production of Elizabeth Rex is the play's Western Canada Premiere. The show is scheduled to be produced in London's West End in the near future. The Arts Club Theatre Company has added a special performance on October 30, when Timothy Findley will be in attendance at a question and answer session.
© 2001, Jane Penistan
Elizabeth Rex plays at The Stanley, Theatre, Granville Street, September
27 - October 28, 2001, at 8.00 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday, with Matinees
Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2.00 p.m.
Tickets at the Box Office 604 - 687 - 1644 or Ticketmaster at 604 - 280 - 3311. Matinees Adults $33.50. Seniors $30.50 Students 21.50. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings Adults $41.50, Seniors. $34.50 Students $27.50 Friday and Saturday Evenings Adults $47.50 Seniors $47.50 Students $47,50.
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