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BWW Review: EMILIA, Online

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Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's electric play is available to view online for two weeks

BWW Review: EMILIA, Online

BWW Review: EMILIA, Online"I will never be at peace as long as I have no voice." These are the words of Emilia Bassano who lived four hundred years ago. Was she the "Dark Lady" of Shakespeare's sonnets? Why haven't we heard about this poet before?

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm penned the now three-time Olivier Award-winning play, Emilia, which tells her story. It premiered at Shakespeare's Globe in 2018 under the direction of Nicole Charles. The production then transferred to the West End and played the Vaudeville Theatre in 2019. An archive recording of the West End run is currently available to stream on a pay-what-you-can basis until 24 November.

As someone who saw the show from the Vaudeville's upper circle, it was a real treat to watch this electric show again viewing the performances up close. There are options to view the stream with audio description or written captions.

Despite a disclaimer at the beginning about the sound quality of the private archive recording, the show comes across well on screen - Emma Loxton did win the Olivier Award for best sound design, after all.

Music by Luisa Gerstein soothes, stirs and steers the action on stage, featuring a cappella voices and occasional instrumentalists on stage, under the musical direction of Yshani Perinpanayagam. The Olivier Award-winning costumes and design by Joanna Scotcher are gorgeous, with medieval wooden aesthetics and puffed sleeves aplenty.

Anna Morrissey's movement direction is a joyous blend of medieval and modern. The dance sequences in Act One caused much hilarity during the #EmiliaWatchParty on Twitter on Tuesday, 10 November. "Ladies, are you ready to slay?" They absolutely did, much to the delight of the in-person and online audience.

All characters in the show are played by women, turning the tables on Shakespearean tradition. Charity Wakefield's Shakespeare is swoon-worthy and Carolyn Pickles steals many laughs as Lord Carey, amongst other roles. Amanda Wilkin's recorder performance as Alphonso Lanier has to be one of the comical highlights of the show.

Emilia herself is portrayed wonderfully by a trio of performers: Saffron Coomber, Adelle Leonce and Clare Perkins. The character shifts seamlessly between the three and the clever creative choice of having all three women on stage throughout beautifully represents our past and future selves watching over our actions.

Emilia is certainly not just a barrel of laughs though. Malcolm's script shifts from moments that have you in stitches to scenes that steal your breath away. Monologues by the Emilia trio are delivered with such nuance and power, you could hear a pin drop.

There have been quite a few "women of history" retellings on our stages in recent years, but Emilia is certainly something special. Whether you enjoy Shakespearean puns or an empowering speech, this rare chance to see the show again should not be missed.

Emilia available online until 24 November at EmiliaLive.com

Photography credit: Helen Murray


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