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Three Queens by Rosamund Gravelle at Barons Court Theatre

Barons Court Theatre is a delightful intimate venue situated in the arched cellar beneath “The Curtain’s Up” public house, three minutes walk from West Kensington Underground Station. It seats about seventy in a thrust stage layout with the audience on three sides of an acting area which can be no larger than three metres square, the audience being raked in comfortable theatre seats so that all can see.

Becky Black, Martha Crow, and Eliza Shea. Photo credit Rosamund Gravelle.
Becky Black, Martha Crow, and Eliza Shea. Photo credit Rosamund Gravelle.

The theatre is managed by Kibo Productions that is presenting Rosamund Gravelle’s first play Three Queens, performed by a community theatre company.

The play lasts 65 minutes and we are told that it takes place in “real-time”, presumably meaning over the course of one night. It is a “forgotten moment of British history”, that takes place in February 1554, the night before Lady Jane Grey (Martha Crow) is to be executed. Queen Mary (Becky Black) is determined to force England back to Catholicism after Henry VIII’s reformation and gets the future Queen Elizabeth (Eliza Shea)to try to persuade protestant Jane to become a Catholic rather than being executed. Gravelle’s play is competently written, especially for a first play, but there is a great deal of talking and very little action, and the pace of each scene is very similar. There are also some soliloquies that seem artificial compared to the naturalism for which the playwright appears to be striving. The play offers few insights into the events covered – I remember covering this period of English history in detail for ‘A’ level history many years ago – but it makes for a pleasant evening at the theatre.

Some of the most believable acting comes from Sally Sharp as Kat Ashley, an underwritten role that just seems to exist in order to give someone for others to talk to! Les Kenny-Green has the necessary physique for Reginald Pope, a cardinal, but the director (Sharon Willems) has placed Sir Robert Dudley (Sushant Shekhar) on stage so that from my seat I only ever saw his back!

The three queens all give solid performances, Martha Crow especially having an effective physical presence in her flowing black dress, but it is a shame that their costumes could not have been ironed! Eliza Shea has poise as Elizabeth and Martha Crow builds her role well towards the final scene.

The lighting (Leo Bacica) consists almost entirely of about 200 flickering electric candles set at ground level or on low tables which, although innovative at first, gradually become quite tiring on the eyes, not only because of the continual flickering but also because, being low down, it makes seeing facial expressions quite difficult. The use of haze seems superfluous.

An unusual piece of theatre, providing food for thought for those interested in The Tudor period in history.

3 Star Review

Review by John Groves

Three Queens
by Rosamund Gravelle
23 April – 11 May 2024, 7:30pm
https://www.baronscourttheatre.com/

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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