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Three Queens | Baron’s Court Theatre

Three Queens, written by Rosamund Gravelle and directed by Sharon Willems, takes us through a night in the lives of three Tudor queens: one famous, one infamous, and one often forgotten by all but devotees of the period.

Yet it is Lady Jane Grey (Martha Crow), Queen for just nine days, who is at the centre of the narrative. On the night before her execution for treason, her cousins reigning queen Mary I (Becky Black) and the future queen Elizabeth I (Eliza Shea) seek to convert her to Catholicism in order to spare her life and further their own agendas.

Despite the high-stakes premise, Gravelle’s script advances the plot quietly but effectively. The script is at its best when the women bounce off each other, revealing their motivations by degree, while the occasional monologues sometimes veer too far into exposition.

Martha Crow gives Jane a quiet dignity throughout most of the play, but is equally effective when the doomed queen finally gives in to rage, while Eliza Shea leads us through Elizabeth’s complicated moral journey with finesse. But it is Becky Black as Mary who is the clear standout, holding herself with a regal poise which nonetheless teeters on the edge of hysteria due to the pressure of the crown and the decisions which come with it.

The venue, Baron’s Court Theatre, presents both challenges and opportunities, with the intimate space put to good use by director Sharon Willems. The actors move through the space, entering and leaving on all sides, and this is particularly effective when combined with music from Dmitri Kennaway. The music, which incorporates liturgical chants and Tudor poetry, reverberates naturally around the space, surrounding the audience with sound.

Lighting from Leo Bacica also cleverly transports us to the Tudor period, with trays of electronic candles lighting the space in a flickering glow which further amplifies the intimacy of the venue.  However, the seating layout, with the audience sitting on three sides of the stage, does not always showcase the material to the fullest ability, with sightlines often blocked from the side-stage seating.

Three Queens is an interesting exploration of the conflict between power and principle, with themes which are relevant whether or not you have a particular interest in the Tudor period. If you do though, you’re in for a treat!

Three Queens runs at Barons Court Theatre until 11th May. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Leo Bacica


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