When Clare Perkins delivered her rousing final monologue on the stage of Shakespeare’s Globe in the 2018 production of Emilia, her words rose into the sky and lingered in the air.
The open architecture of the space gave the speech a feeling of limitlessness, of freedom. As she spoke, there was a sense that her words could be heard for miles around.
Perkins remains flawless in her portrayal of poet Emilia Bassano in the show’s West End transfer, but in the enclosed auditorium of the Vaudeville Theatre, her pussy-powered, earth-shattering speech has nowhere to go. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s writing was not made to be contained.
The production gains almost as much as is taken away, though. The tender yet explosive beauty of Anna Morrissey’s choreography and movement direction is brought into focus in this new setting. The use of music in the show is better accommodated by the space. Luisa Gerstein’s compositions of voice percussion – each actor is also a musical instrument – and polyphonic harmony are a balm for the ears.
Perkins shares the role with newcomers Saffron Coomber and Adelle Leonce, who seamlessly slide into the sisterhood. Tanika Yearwood and Jackie Clune, also new to the cast, are particularly good as Lord Collins and Lord Thomas Howard. Original cast member Amanda Wilkin is once again delightfully daft as Alphonso Lanier and Sarah Seggari – also from the original cast – is outstanding in the roles of Lady Cordelia and Flora. Nicole Charles’ production loses a little of its magic in its new home, but none of its power.