Review: The Regina Monologues

Before Six, there was The Regina Monologues! Maltings Theatre’s streaming debut offers an interesting set of monologues

“He doesn’t want me any more”

I’ve an affection for the Maltings Theatre, their Shakespearean double bill marked the first live theatre I saw after the first lockdown last summer and if the weather didn’t necessarily hold out for us, the beautiful surroundings of the open air Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans more than made up for it. Now as we find ourselves in the throes of a different lockdown, they’ve made the move online, streaming a Spring programme of three plays.

First up is The Regina Monologues, written by Rebecca Russell and Jenny Wafer for this very theatre back in 2004, long before Marlow and Moss came up with the historemix. Their innovation was to take the six wives of Henry VIII and transplant them into the modern day, asking what might draw six women to all marry the same man – unseen throughout – and wondering whether contemporary women have it that much better than their Tudor counterparts. Continue reading “Review: The Regina Monologues”

Review: Henry V / The Merry Wives of Windsor, Roman Theatre of Verulamium St Albans

A return to live theatre is well marked by these vibrant open-air productions of Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans

“Try and stay one box away from each other at all times”

As we try and search for a new normal in these uncertain times, it is reassuring to know that we can always rely on the unfailing unreliability of the British weather. After a scorcher of a week, the Maltings Open Air Theatre Festival finds itself opening into thunderstorms aplenty in the atmospheric surroundings of the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans. Plus ça change…

What has changed though is the basic reality of putting on a play. Social distancing rules supreme and it is fascinating to see how directors Matthew Parker and Adam Nichols are dealing with it in their respective productions of Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Continue reading “Review: Henry V / The Merry Wives of Windsor, Roman Theatre of Verulamium St Albans”

Review: Twelfth Night, Rose Playhouse

Twelfth Night in the roaring twenties? OVO Theatre bring their inventive musical take on Shakespeare to the Rose Playhouse

“Glitter all over the room
Pink flamingos in the pool”

OVO Theatre were responsible for my first visit to St Albans with last year’s Much Ado About Nothing in the grand surroundings of the Roman Theatre of Verulamium there. This year, my travel time may have been significantly cut down but once again there’s no less history in their venue choice as their musicalised production of Twelfth Night takes place in the archaeological wonder of Bankside’s Rose Playhouse.

And also once again, there’s an intriguing mismatch between said history and the setting for the reinterpreted play. Roman ruins formed the backdrop for a 50s American diner last time around; here, the darkness surrounding Tudor stone suggests endless ocean as we find ourselves on the SS Illyria in all the hedonistic excess of the roaring twenties. A bold move and one which has its moments in Adam Nichols’ production. Continue reading “Review: Twelfth Night, Rose Playhouse”

Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Roman Theatre of Verulamium St Albans

OVO Theatre’s Much Ado About Nothing gets transplanted to a 50s American diner in the ruins of the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans, and to great effect

“I saw him scurrying away in melancholy like James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause

A first trip to St Albans for me, and to the atmospheric surroundings of the Roman Theatre of Verulamium, where OVO Theatre have established quite the reputation for open-air Shakespeare alongside their more regular programming at the Maltings Theatre. And the prospect of a Much Ado About Nothing drenched in 1950s Americana was one that piqued my interest, even if the well-realised shiny set design sits a little incongruously among the Roman ruins.

Adam Nichols and Janet Podd’s bold re-envisioning of the play pays dividends in all sorts of unexpected ways – this is Messina but not as we know it. We find ourselves in 1959 at Leonata’s Bar and Grill, a fine music venue somewhere in the Midwest, where the crew of the USS Gull are to rock up after a tour in the Far East. And in a bit of extratextual business at the beginning, we see Leonata’s daughter Hero Beyoncé her way into the role of lead singer in up-and-coming band The Sonnettes. The name of the woman she replaced? Joanna. Continue reading “Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Roman Theatre of Verulamium St Albans”