The Power Behind the Crone review at Assembly Studios, Edinburgh – ‘entertaining’
For those who believe that there are no good parts for older women in Shakespeare, The Power Behind the Crone is required viewing. Premiering at the 2016 RADA Festival, Alison Skilbeck’s play takes the form of a supposed lecture at the Enfield Chapter of the University of the Third Age.
Professor Artemis Turret was planning on old chum and international star Dame Bunti Smart arriving to assist with readings, but she is otherwise engaged so the academic steps in.
What ensues is an articulate and entertaining deconstruction of several of Shakespeare’s most interesting older women. The Old Testament vitriol of Queen Margaret, the warmth and wisdom of Countess Rousillon and the earthy honesty of Mistress Quickly are all examined in lucid detail, in tandem with Turret’s witty asides. The dismissive title crone is a misnomer, as Skilbeck’s script revels in how well-rounded and complex Shakespeare’s women can be.
Skilbeck’s play is an entertaining way to make a point, and as a performer, she invests Turret with genuine air of authority and good humour. There are a few chinks in this starchy academic’s armour, notably her bittersweet relationship with the absent Dame Bunti. Skilbeck exploits these to subtle comic effect.