The show follows Elizabeth as a determined, independent and discerning woman at a time when women were still treated as male property. Hickson mixes historical social etiquette with contemporary language and humour to give an admiring portrait of Elizabeth: grasping onto sovereign power with all her might, defying royal convention by not marrying, remaining childless, not allowing privy council men to govern for her, ultimately ruling for forty-four years. Not bad for a queen with such ‘womanish infirmity’.
The narrative moves with an unruffled swiftness due to the skilful penmanship of Hickson. Her portfolio of plays on female empowerment has yet to disappoint, and Swive is no exception.
The play’s title takes its dual meaning from the word’s archaic roots ‘to have sexual intercourse’ and ‘to move (along a course) or sweep’. Both meanings are illuminated in the play: the “Virgin Queen’s” sex life is dissected from an early age, and we watch as Elizabeth swims against the current as a reviled princess locked in the Tower of London by her sister Queen Mary, to being crowned Queen of England and Supreme Governor of the English Protestant Church (a title she fought tooth and nail to secure but wasn’t satisfied with).
As with every play performed in the Sam Wanamaker theatre, the stage is sumptuously lit with candles; the show has its very own candle consultant, Prema Mehta. Director Natalie Abrahami moves the chronological scenes at a clip and the cast of four are vigorous in their execution of multiple characters inhabiting the Tudor court. They all serve the joke-ridden text with a sense of delight.
When Elizabeth is crowned queen there is a dynamic shift where actor Abigail Cruttenden takes the role of Elizabeth the Elder from Nina Cassells who plays Elizabeth the Youth. Not only is this a theatrical nod to the play’s multiroling device, this swapping of actors is a gesture towards the fraught power dynamics of race relations both in Tudor times and in our contemporary world, questioning who is ultimately allowed to rule in this country.
The show ends on a slightly hurried note, which feels more like the end of an act than the end of the play itself, but this is one of the few quibbles of the piece.
If you are well versed in the history of the Tudors or Elizabeth herself, you aren’t likely to glean any new gems of insight on this historical icon. Instead you will have a compelling evening laughing and scheming alongside one of the savviest, most uncompromising queens ever to rule this sceptred isle.
|What||Swive [Elizabeth], Sam Wanamaker Playhouse review|
|Where||The Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London, SE1 9DT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||London Bridge (underground)|
06 Dec 19 – 15 Feb 20, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Price||£10 - £20|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|