London Theatre Review: Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre
| By Shanine Salmon
Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s play Emilia, transferred from the Shakespeare’s Globe, finally puts ‘The Dark Lady’ in the spotlight.
Emilia is played by three actresses; Saffron Coomber as the young Emilia coming to terms with the death of her parents and making her way through the royal court, Adelle Leonce as an older Emilia with more wisdom and further pain and Clare Perkins is Emilia at the end of her life looking back on the injustices she faced as a woman and as a creative.
Emilia, with its all-female cast and creative team, is an interesting twist on the all-male companies of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare (played by Charity Wakefield) was Emilia’s lover and actually named two characters in his plays after her. Emilia is a reminder that even the most talented, clever and unique women in history struggled to find their place in the world.
Lloyd Malcolm is a strong writer and she isn’t just writing on behalf of Emilia but all women. She shows Emilia working with washerwomen to improve their literacy and Emilia feels like a ‘throwing-the-ladder-down’ moment to other female writers when Morgan could easily have rolled it back up to enjoy the fruits of her success.
Directed by Nicole Charles this play keeps the fun and chaos of a Globe production and there are some stand out performances from Wakefield as Shakespeare, Carolyn Pickles as Emilia’s lover and benefactor Lord Henry Carey, Amanda Wilkin as her useless husband Alfonso and great support from all the cast including Nadia Albina and Sophie Stone, actresses with disabilities who were not playing disabled characters. This level of diversity is rarely seen on the stage and I commend the production team for paving the way forward for other productions to do more. I was also drawn to Sarah Seggari, I look forward to catching her in more productions.
Emilia isn’t a frothy tale about a sexy woman who writes poetry. It is an emotional rollercoaster with Clare Perkin’s final speech worth the 2hours and 30-minute running time. Both my friend and I were in tears and other audience members seemed supportive that these words were being said. If you loved Nell Gwynn, you will love Emilia.
Emilia is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre through 15 June.
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