As part of a series of plays by and/or about women that is currently appearing throughout the city, the Folger Shakespeare Library put on texts&beheadings/ElizabethR.
It’s far better than the title, which sounds like it was written by someone who’d just read of tone essays of by second rate Derrida disciples.
On stage are four ‘Elizabeths,’ each representing, in part, different periods of her life, but mostly different aspects of her life. For example, the last one to be featured (in what the cast declared to be Movement 4), mostly focused on her strident anger at attempts to marginalize her or threaten her reign or right to rule.
Each of the four movements featured one actress whose ‘lines’ were almost exclusively from the writings on Queen Elizabeth herself – from her prayers, her letters, her poetry, and her speeches to Parliament. The other three would speak more colloquially, providing background and context.
It was absolutely gripping and compelling and it seems petty to criticize, but I will anyway. One actress had a strong accent (Spanish, I think), which detracted, for me, from her portrayal as that quintessentially English figure. On a more existential level, as fantastic as it was, what was the purpose? What were we intended to learn or walk from it with? I’m not clear.
But still. A Shakespeare theater was the perfect outlet for this, because any production of Shakespeare invariably is at least partly about showing this centuries old writer, this man of his times, wrote works that are relevant and timely/timeless. If this play (performance? production? it’s not exactly a play, is it?) had a purpose, at least part is showing how Queen Elizabeth’s existential, feminist struggles for power, for the right to power, and for the right to determination are as timeless and timely as they are of their time.