Eleanor of Aquitaine: Mother of Pride review at Tara Theatre, London – ‘a superlative performance’
The story of Eleanor of Aquitaine is a dramatist’s dream. Once the queen of France and then the queen of England she was the richest woman in Europe. Her marriage to Henry II meant that she was mother to three future kings of England.
Catherine Muschamp’s one-woman play presents the ageing, dowager queen in her last days. It’s a fairly dusty and dated piece of writing, prone to exposition and peppered with several cliches.
The production is part of the I’ll Say It Again! season of work by women artists, a month-long festival celebrating the centenary of women’s suffrage in the UK. What makes it stand out is Eileen Page’s performance – the 92-year-old actor brings a wealth of experience to the role, having enjoyed a professional career spanning nearly 70 years.
It’s not age that defines Page’s performance however but her superlative interpretation of Muschamp’s play. It may not be her first stab at the role having played it several times over the last 20 years, but Page brings to the story a genuine immediacy.
The fighting spirit of the young French queen, her coupling with the randy Henry Plantagenet and the murder of Thomas a Becket are recalled in vivid detail, with flashes of passion lighting up the tired queen’s face. Out of necessity the staging is simple yet thorough, complemented by some exceptionally sensitive lighting from Peter Small.
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