Emilia at Vaudeville Theatre

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Emilia is a new play by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm which is set in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s. It tells of Emilia Bassano who was a writer and passionate advocate of women’s rights. The play follows her throughout her life, including how she became mistress of Henry Carey, her relationship with Shakespeare, the birth of her children and publication of her poetry.

The most prominent thing about the show is the passion running throughout it. The script itself is full of passion and the delivery by the cast is so powerful that the final speech, delivered by Clare Perkins as Emilia 3, moves the audience to tears. It is the type of speech and delivery that I would love to be able to watch on repeat and for it to be shown in schools around the country to inspire young women to continue striving for equality.

The language of Emilia flits between Shakespeare’s prose to today’s slang, cleverly ensuring that the message is clear for all to understand. Whilst the show is set firmly in the past the relevance to today is clear to see and fitting for today’s generation trying to burst through glass ceilings.

It is not only Clare Perkins as Emilia 3 who is remarkable in this play. Emilia is played by 3 different women throughout the different stages of her life. Emilia 1 is played by Saffron Coomber who maintans an air of innocence and naivety about the world.  Emilia 2 is Adelle Leonce who becomes a broken woman before she develops into a more worldly wise individual. Along with Clare Perkins the 3 women are entirely believable as the same woman at different stages of her life, all with the same fire in their belly.

The rest of the cast are equally as strong. The entire cast (and creative team) is made up of women and they take on all of the male roles within the play. The cast is also diverse both in ethnicity, age and disability, ensuring that women are able to feel personally represented on stage. The men in the play are exaggerated and ridiculed. Charity Wakefield plays William Shakespeare with a jovial arrogance and an exaggerated swagger and Amanda Wilkin as Alphonso Lanier, Emilia’s husband is played camp and foolish.

The show not only holds the audiences interest due to the passion and clever dialogue but the short movement pieces and moments of music elevate the show further. They fit seamlessly into the action and adds additional gravitas to key moments.

The final speech in Emilia is an unsubtle call to arms for women, to continue to roar until the message is acted upon. This is a show that needs to be seen by all . By women to help them realise that we don’t have to accept what we are given. By men to help them realise the uncomfortable truth, that gender equality is still an issue and that some of the issues Emilia herself faced are still present today. Tell your friends, your neighbours, your children and get to Emilia to ensure that the roar becomes deafening.

Emilia is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until 15th June. To find out more and book tickets visit their website.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Six, Hamilton and Come From Away.

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