Queen Anne @ Theatre Royal Haymarket
Cast Includes Romola Garai and Emma Cunniffe
Running Time: 2 hours 30 mins, inc. Interval
Queen Anne is a new piece of writing from the RSC that has recently transferred from Stratford’s Swansea Theatre. Written by Helen Edmundson, it feels very much in the style of a Shakespearean historical, with the piece charting the coronation of Anne and the deterioration of her relationship with Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough.
The piece would be very easy to parallel to the work of Shakespeare – as well as continuing the historical line (albeit with a gap), it is very easy to see Sarah as a tragic hero – it is through her pride and vanity that her downfall comes about – in many ways this piece is about Sarah as it is Anne. The plot is good, even though there are some slower moments in the first act, these pay off later in the play, highlighting some fantastic performances by the cast.
Central to the show are two standout performances by Emma Cunniffe as Anne and Romola Garai (a new addition to the cast) as Lady Sarah. Both give a real masterclass in creating vivid and realistic characters who have flaws, and their scenes together and chemistry is electric, especially as the play progresses – Cunniffe gives an authority to the role of Anne yet also retains a vulnerability, which is very different to many historical readings, which do not give her such leadership.
There is also a strong supporting cast, with both Chu Omambala as John Churchill and Richard Hope as Godolfin. In fact, the entire cast has a real ensemble feel and each of them have moments to excel, especially during the musical interludes which highlight particular moments and are later inimical to the plot.
The play’s set is simple, in fact almost feeling like it could have been performed in latter Shakespearean times, in an indoor playhouse. The only criticism that can be made about this is that it can be slightly dark and can drain the energy from certain longer scenes, and also means certain scenes lack variation, in particular between indoor and outdoor locations.
Summary: A strong transfer from the RSC with stunning central performances ****