Written by Lauren Brewer & Will Drake
Direction by Lauren Brewer
Musical Direction by Will Drake
“The devil works hard, but the Queen works harder.”
Durham University’s Tone Deaf Theatre Company present a snappy, cleverly written musical with a talented cast based on the life and love of Queen Elizabeth the First. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has a history of propelling historical musical productions to stardom and this Six-esque production serves highlights the struggles of being a Tudor Queen in a man’s world.
Lauren Brewer and Will Drake have written a well thought-out musical comprised of historical references infused with modern comedy to weave a compelling love triangle storyline. Similarly, the costuming is simple with some modern flair, and the choreography weaves together Tudor court dancing with contemporary styles to use the whole small stage space effectively.
The titular Single Lady, Queen Elizabeth, is engagingly portrayed by Lucie Fletcher, who manages to combine relatability with an almost regal stage presence. Fletcher’s vocal talents are showcased throughout the production, from rapping about Elizabeth’s childhood trauma to belting out power ballads bemoaning her lack of autonomy over her choices.
It was uncommon for a woman in the Tudor time period to be in power, and poised as the man to wrestle that power from Elizabeth’s grasp is Olly Stanton’s Robert Dudley. Initially presented as Elizabeth’s “Prince Charming” it is immediately apparent from his dark references to murdering his wife that Dudley has a sinister side. After facing rejection from the Queen, Stanton portrays a manipulative Dudley and uses Elizabeth’s childhood friend Lettice, played by Vivienne Shaw, to make the Queen jealous. Fletcher and Stanton’s on stage chemistry during their “Friends with Benefits” duet and subsequent scenes bring a level of believability to the romantic storyline, while Shaw showcases Lettice’s plight as the pawn in the power struggle in her “I can’t tell him no” solo.
One of the more innovative facets of the musical is the personification of History, portrayed by Jacob Velluci, as a character influencing and controlling Elizabeth’s decisions, and reprimanding what would have been perceived as her wrongdoings in the public eye. Velluci’s character fluctuates between bringing levity to the production with one-liners, snappy headlines describing Elizabeth’s decisions and their overt flirtation with Dudley to darkly asserting dominance over the Queen, stating “I’m the man in charge”.
While The Single Lady could easily be perceived as a musical themed around female empowerment and a celebration of a historical woman in power, the plot revolves almost entirely around a love triangle where two female friends are pitted against each other in the effort to gain the love of a man. The writing succeeds in highlighting the double standards faced by Elizabeth, emphasising the freedom to love that her father Henry the 8th had, while marrying the man she loved could endanger Elizabeth’s reign, but frames Elizabeth having an affair with a married Dudley as her “taking back her power”.
Succeeding within the limitations of historical adaptation, Brewer and Drake infuse a female-focused viewpoint through their sharp script which allows The Single Lady to shine with its clever composition and ability to showcase the talents of all four cast members.
The Single Lady runs at theSpace North Bridge until August 13th
Tickets for which may be obtained here.
Written by Mhairi Sime