A Tale of Two Queens: Swive [Elizabeth] At Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Swive [Elizabeth], Sam Wanamaker Playhouse ★★★★☆

By Alannah Dorli Jones Last edited 8 months ago

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A Tale of Two Queens: Swive [Elizabeth] At Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Swive [Elizabeth], Sam Wanamaker Playhouse 4

The double meaning of the archaic verb to ‘swive’ as both to copulate with and to reap imbues this play, exploring ‘the power and perception of the feminine'.

Writer Ella Hickson and director Natalie Abrahami explore the overlapping contradictions of femininity and power in the Elizabethan age, including the inherent contradiction of an age of male domination and patriarchy, ruled over by a female monarch.

The bulk of it plays as straight drama, but its best moments constitute a wry and playful interrogation of the interplay of history and invention. The opening breaks the fourth wall to have a jibe at the ‘cosy candly Elizabethan bullshit’ of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which is, after all, ‘no more than five years old'.

Though it demands a scraping of knowledge and familiarity with the context of Elizabeth I’s reign, the action is mostly comprehensible and even at times humorous. The cast of four pull off the feat of seeming more populous in their multi-roling. Abigail Cruttenden’s commanding performance as the elder Elizabeth plays perfectly against the calculated naivety of Nina Cassells’ Princess Elizabeth.

This is one for those who enjoyed Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia and a progression up in some ways — Swive is more challenging and subtle, and therefore more incisive in scope.

Swive [Elizabeth], Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 21 New Globe Walk, SE1 9DT. Tickets £7-£62, until 15 February 2020.

Last Updated 17 December 2019