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Elizabeth I: Virgin on the Ridiculous | Review

1558. England. A country divided by religion and politics, teetering on the brink of civil war. The hopes of the nation lie with one woman. 2022. England. A country divided by those who enjoy plays featuring men in dresses and those who don’t. The hopes of the nation lie with two West-Country actors.

Elizabeth I: Virgin on the RidiculousRight from the off, the play is full of energy. There was never a dull moment and the writing was non-stop laughs. The audience was made to feel very comfortable with Howard Coggins and Stu Mcloughlin as the updated retelling of these historical events (even if we’ll never know if they were historically accurate in the first place) encouraged a relaxed and homely atmosphere with an improvisatory feel. A particular highlight was the retelling of the Babington Plot with Coggins deciphering the coded letters between Mary Queen of Scots and Anthony Babington in the style of a TV show with an upbeat theme tune and bongos, well-directed by Craig Edwards here.

We were in good hands with Coggins and Mcloughlin. Multi-roling to the extreme, Coggins successfully alternated between Robert Dudley (affectionately referred to as “Bobby”), Walter Raleigh, Francis Walsingham as well as many other characters and made the audience giggle to no end. His warmth and versatility made for a fantastic performance. Mcloughlin made the audience laugh at the high points for example in reacting to the phone messages left by King Phillip of Spain (“Buenos dias muy bonita” delivered in a hilariously sped up fashion) and really feel for Elizabeth I, or “Lizzie” as she refers to herself when writing in her comically large A4 diary and an enormous pink pen. This was especially felt towards the end of the performance when she and Dudley (Coggins) establish that they cannot be together and she is left alone on stage as the lights dim leaving her in just a spotlight.

If we didn’t know this production team were talented already, the original songs brought side-splitting laughter and at one point raucous cackling from the audience. Extremely catchy, the highlights were hip hop style rap banger “He is Walter Raleigh”, and title track “Virgin on the Ridiculous”. The use of live instruments was inviting and fun; bongos, electric and acoustic guitars really amplified the performance and helped to convey a spontaneous style and upbeat atmosphere.

Breaking the fourth wall by speaking directly to the audience at times (for example the introduction to the Milk Tray Man), encouraging audience participation bypassing around props such as a potato and picture frame, and a call and response section summoning a “he’s behind you!” style reaction as the audience were called upon to play a Tudor Privy Council provided all the jollity of an Elizabethan banquet and the warmth of a cosy night in with friends you’ve known for years.

Overall, it was a ridiculous, nonsense filled laughing fest. A slightly more polished version may be called for if it transfers to a larger stage but an enjoyable evening nonetheless. Save Living Spit for when you want to entertain friends from out of town, but maybe not for when the in-laws are visiting.

4 stars

Review by Kim Bourlet

Craig Edwards directs Howard Coggins and Stu McLoughlin in the 2-person musical comedy drama Elizabeth I: Virgin on the Ridiculous.

1558. England. A country divided by religion and politics, teetering on the brink of civil war. The hopes of the nation lie with one woman.

2022. England. A country seemingly divided by those who enjoy plays featuring men in dresses and those who don’t. The hopes of the nation lie with two West-Country actors.

LIVING SPIT presents
Elizabeth I: Virgin on the Ridiculous
Directed by Craig Edwards
Company Stage Manager Fiona Trim
Producer Ali Robertson
Marketing by Spark Arts

LISTING INFORMATION
King’s Head Theatre
115 Upper Street, London N1 1QN
Performances:
Tuesday to Saturday at 7pm and 2.30 pm matinees on Saturday 5th and 12th March.

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