I, Elizabeth is a delicate monologue which allows Rebecca Vaughan to display her undeniable talent in full force, maintaining a thick tension in the room throughout. A study of Elizabeth I focused on character and emotion rather than plot, and guided by a convincing and commanding performance, I, Elizabeth gets to the heart of the icon in a way that is undeniably believable.
Elegantly written, the script is an amalgamation of Elizabeth’s own words in the form of letters, speeches, poetry and prayers, assembled with remarkable continuity by Vaughan herself. Describing her reactions to events and conveying her most intimate thoughts, Vaughan maintains the regality of the icon without plunging into pitiful victimhood. Speaking with elegance and power, she skips self-indulgence to give a vivid portrayal of an elusive queen. The piece reaches its culmination at a mental breakdown; reeking of power even in moments of vulnerability, Vaughan somehow manages to blend together both assertiveness and weakness. The minimalist use of props and Vaughan’s delicate acting enable the monologue to appear entirely spontaneous, a careful character study that exults in emotion and draws you in completely.
With the help of a talented make-up and costume designer, Vaughan suspends the present in a way that is entirely absorbing. The stage and lighting simple, the focus is on the acting. There is no need for convoluted dialogue, metaphors or gimmicky stage props; the strength of this piece lies in the emotion it draws out in viewer and performer alike.
At an hour and fifteen minutes, the monologue may only appeal to the most ardent of Elizabethan zealots. At times repetitious, I, Elizabeth satisfies a very specific target audience. Although an impressive and precise piece of theatre, those uninterested in the subject matter may, by the end, find it on the dreadfully dull side of the theatre spectrum. Undeniably brilliant, it is for all to appreciate, but only some to truly enjoy.
I, Elizabeth plays Assembly Roxy (Venue 139) as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe until August 31. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Festival Fringe website.