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July 30, 2007 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Monarchy: The Musical

By Paul Jenden and Gareth Farr
Directed by Paul Jenden
Circa until 25 August

“Monarchy is musical chairs, all high kicks and foreign affairs…”

Monarchy the Musical is a romp through history and in the tradition of great musicals: it’s sheer spectacle. Act I covers the Wessexes from 802 to the Stuarts in 1649. It moves quickly through monarch after monarch, pausing occasionally to delve deeper into the stories of Richard III or Eleanor of Aquitaine (which I enjoyed immensely, for personal reasons). Act I ends dramatically with the dissolving of the monarchy by Oliver Cromwell. Act II covers 1660 to the present day, and moves more slowly. The show suffers somewhat for having no clear storyline, but never the less certain themes emerge: loneliness, the struggles for power, infidelities and failed marriages.

Queen Elizabeth II (Christina Cusiel) is our narrator throughout the play, with six excellent other actors playing 15 or so other characters each. One of the most interesting theatrical devices is the role of The Old Retainer played by Louis Solino – he introduces characters, takes their lives and controls the action. In the end, he is subordinated by our reigning Monarch Queen Elizabeth II, with a hearty chorus of “God save the Queen”.

It’s a musical with all the trimmings: lavish sets and costumes, zillions of lighting changes and back-up dancers. Still, there were plenty of fake swords, swooning and bad theatrical deaths, which I like.

There are some truly touching moments, such as the life of baby King Henry V (as puppet) being snuffed out. And certain songs, such as “Lonely at the Top” which presented the world of the monarch from a female perspective, were able to tap into something quite human.

The opening night audience loved it. It’s funny, but even funnier if you have a good knowledge of English history. Ultimately it’s a joyful celebration of monarchy.


About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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