Elizabeth, almost by chance a woman

Flloyd Kennedy

QUEENSLAND THEATRE COMPANY: A joyful, wickedly ironic adaptation of Dario Fo’s original script, confidently grounded in 21st century Australia.
Elizabeth, almost by chance a woman
I adore the timing that sees a new production of Dario Fo’s Elizabeth, almost by chance a woman opening amid the clamour and clatter of Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

QTC director Wesley Enoch offers a newish translation and adaptation of Fo’s political satire, by Luke Devenish and Louise Fox. First commissioned by and performed at by Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre in 2010, it is a joyful, wickedly ironic version that captures the spirit of the original, while grounding it confidently in 21st century Australia. In the best tradition of political satire, it allows for late insertion of contemporary references – on opening night, Elizabeth pointed out to her ‘Can Do’ minister that “Tony Abbott can leave a room faster than you can!”

Carol Burns is simply stupendous, superb, serendipitously cast and stunning as Elizabeth. She has the grandeur of Gloriana, the passion of Essex’s would be mistress, the vanity of a politician, and the simplicity of a childish, semi-senile old lady. An unmissable performance.

Eugene Gilfedder admirably executes the physical aspects of his commedia-like portrayals of Shakespeare and Madame Grosslady. His gravelly voice is limited to a narrow range; the lines – very clever and witty lines they are too, when you can catch them – are mostly shouted, delivered with pace but little variety.

Sarah Kennedy (Martha) is slightly awkward as the Lady in Waiting to the Queen, bouncing between overbearing and caring modes, her presence evaporating in between.

Jason Klarwein is a total revelation as Egerton, the Queen’s minister and would-be assassin. He demonstrates a lovely comic ability, full of variety; self-aware and expressive. Likewise, Dash Kruck’s Thomas the Fool is pure delight.

Musical Director John Rodgers provides a witty, eclectic mixture of musical motifs from Renaissance tunes to modern pop. Disappointingly, though his music and occasional remarks are a vital thread throughout the performance, and although he is introduced to the audience as Mr Byrd, the Queen’s Musician, he is tucked away in a gully at the side, visible to very few in the audience.

Director Wesley Enoch has assembled a fine team of collaborators. The set and costume design by Simone Romaniuk is as wittily wicked as the script; David Walters’ lighting design is complementary; and Scott Witt’s clowning/slapstick routines is cleverly integrated into a production which reminds us that nobody gives up power gracefully – and growing old gracefully can be even more challenging.

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5

Elizabeth, almost by chance a woman
By Dario Fo
Adapted and translated by Luke Devenish and Louise Fox
Director: Wesley Enoch
Musical Director: John Rodgers
Cast: Carol Burns, Eugene Gilfedder, Jason Klarwein, Dash Kruck, Christen O'Leary, John Rodgers

Brisbane Powerhouse
May 26 – June 24

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Flloyd Kennedy is an Australian actor, writer, director, voice and acting coach. She was founding artistic director of Golden Age Theatre (Glasgow), and has published critiques of performance for The Stage & Television Today, The Herald, The Scotsman, The Daily Record and Paisley Gazette. Since returning to Brisbane she works with independent theatre and film companies, and has also lectured in voice at QUT, Uni of Otago (Dunedin NZ), Rutgers (NJ) and ASU (Phoenix AZ). Flloyd's private practice is Being in Voice, and she is artistic director of Thunder's Mouth Theatre. She blogs about all things voice and theatre at http://being-in-voice.com/flloyds-blog/ and http://criticalmassblog.net/2012.