Elizabeth I: Virgin on the Ridiculous by Living Spit
“It’s a comedy about Elizabeth I, virgin Queen of England.” I told my Dad when asking him if he wanted to come with me to review it. “What – like Blackadder?” was his answer, and why not.
So the deal was done, my father and I were heading to the Brewery Theatre in Bristol for a night of medieval mayhem. Now, my father is a sprightly 68 year old who has seen a thing or two, but upon entering the Brewery Theatre he became a proper bumpkin and acted like he had never seen electricity, let alone been to the theatre. He was like a child that didn’t know the rules of the theatre and in the interval he got a massive fit of giggles that drew everyone’s attention.
At the start of the second act, one actor asks us to make a big thing when the other actor comes on stage because he is feeling a ‘little insecure’, and my Father shouts out “Don’t worry, we were going to already.” Note to self – explain about the forth wall to Father on way home. Additional note to self – actually, see if Father will babysit next time so the wife can come.
Elizabeth I: Virgin on the Ridiculous is a 2 man show where silly comedy comes in spades. The opening song has a bloke with a beard in a dress playing a guitar, while another bloke in a dress stands on a chair and sings the opening line “I am a woman, who is obviously not a man.” OK, let me just hold my suspension of disbelief and see where this nonsense leads. It’s fun, and very silly.
Basically, it is the story of Queen Elizabeth I, Queen of England. It starts with her in jail about to be beheaded, then follows her rise to Queen, how the Privy Council forbade her from marrying the man she loved and her decision to therefore remain a virgin, married to the throne. It includes Sir Walter Raleigh and potatoes, Mary Queen of Scots, and the Spanish Armada (Armada from the Spanish, ‘fleet’ – I didn’t know that) and some bloke who ended up married to a lettuce. My personal knowledge of Elizabethan history isn’t 100%, so I will keep quite about the lettuce until I know better.
The actors (Stu McLoughin and Howard Coggins) play actors playing the characters, so there is a lot of ‘falling out of character’ and asides to the audience and each other, which generates a lot of laughs. Howard keeps on referring to how he played Henry VIII in the last play (and he does look the spit of him), but how he is giving Stu a shot at the limelight. Unfortunately his actions speak louder than his intentions and he is constantly trying to ‘out do’ Stu, despite his promises.
Although it is a historical play with a good share of historical facts, there are lots of Shrek-like inclusions of modern life, such as the King of Spain leaving courtship messages on Elizabeth’s answer phone (along with sexy messages from Stephen Hawking!), pregnancy tests, playing Angry Birds on iPads and Big Brother Style Diary Room monologues.
There is a great line when Elizabeth is thinking she will have seven children and name then Chris, Mike, Lee, Chas, Daniel, Mark and Suggs. But no – that would be Madness! There is even a big bit of audience participation because “The Arts Council love that type of rubbish!”
So, what did my Dad think of it all? He said “I am a peasant. I know what I like and I don’t like being educated or lectured – but I am thoroughly enjoying this. If I had seen a poster advertising a ‘comedy’ musical about Elizabeth I, I would have never considered watching it – but I like the banter between the actors and I love the songs. I wish I could buy the CD.”
“Dad, you can, for just £5.” “Great!, I’ll do that” – and he did – the first music collection he has bought since Elvis died.
It is a fun and very silly night out that was somewhere between The Office, Shrek, Big Brother and Black Adder. Historical? More like hysterical.
Elizabeth I: Virgin on the Ridiculous is on at Brewery Theatre until 4th October
– Review by Ade Bowen, Action Pussycat