Boudica @ Shakespeare’s Globe: Battle Come Down

Couldn’t resist. I’m sorry for the verse.
It’s hardly brilliant, and that is why
It’s Tristam Bernays who got a commission,
And why I’m writing blogs instead of plays.

*

It’s rather a surprise that Boudica
Has not been given such a play before;
This hugely influential, mythic figure,
About whom we know almost nothing of –
A great role waiting for an actress t’play.
Gina McKee here gives her life and grows
From tentative – and possibly too posh –
To raging, seething, blood-drenched queen in war.
Her temples smudged with blue, voice opened up.
And five stars for the wig alone, I reckon.
Her power in the part will only grow
As she has time to work out where to rip
Loose, where her voice and energy can run
Away from her. She’s very good, and never
Better than when onstage with her two daughters;
The only things she cares for more than war.
Natalie Simpson, Joan Iyiola play
These parts, the only ones who own the stage
With the authority of Boudica,
The ones I want to see when she’s offstage,
If offstage she must be. The conflict there
Feels real, the actors’ chemistry does spark.

*

I could have done without the movement bits,
Not every new play needs to have some dance,
It would have shaved some time of it as well.
My problems with the piece come down to this;
It’s always entertaining, but there’s parts
That go on far too long; it’s ‘Boudica’
Not ‘Random Roman Soldier I don’t care
About.’ But most surprising is the way
Formidably the play is anti-war.
It’s critical of violence in all forms,
Manifestations, mourns the brutal truth
Of revolution; just how easily
The slaves get just as cruel as masters did.
A play that I suppose I thought would take
From Boudica ideas of nation, pride
Perhaps, more openly reactionary –
More Brexity, even. Temptation’s dodged.

*

It seemed appropriate the heaven’s opened
When the Iceni stormed the Roman town;
This play belongs in open air, the verse
Bernays employs entirely justified
By a production treating it as grand
As any Shakespeare, but with trademark wit
And the irreverence that came to note
The time of Emma Rice; the Romans smashed
Apart to Celtic riffs on ‘London Calling,’
We hear a prologue, Gods and myth’s invoked,
We hear soliloquies, but much seems Greek
As well as English; violence is onstage
For sure, when Boudica rips out a tongue
For instance. Still, a lot is told to us,
Aspiring to give us a sense of scale.
But Shakespeare’s Globe has the advantage where
A character we know at threat of rape
Can claw her way towards the audience,
And beg a person standing there for help.
When horror is this easy to express
On such a stage it seems irrelevant
Almost to have a person talk to us,
Before she too is murdered by the Celts.
Sometimes it seems to talk for sake of talk.

*

Worthiness at the Globe is a misstep.
Delicate work goes quite unnoticed there,
The subtleties of language do get lost.
And that’s why entertainment has to take
Priority; strong narrative and climbing
Momentum – make it bold and make it loud –
And Boudica is never less than this.

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