4 ½ stars
Did you know that women have historically been silenced by, and in the interests of, patriarchal narratives? Yep, it’s actually true.
I'll pause a moment while you recover from this mind-blowing revelation.
Now, consider Shakespeare. We’ll put aside the fact that his female characters were played by men on stage. Instead, let's focus on the way they were represented in the bard’s stories. In particular, the stories that feature Queen Margaret of Anjou.
Gillian English, who also brings her shows Drag Queen Stole My Dress, Giant & Angry, and Comedy of Errors for Kids to FRINGE WORLD, has explored this in detail. In She Wolf, her characterisation of Queen Margaret wittily highlights the problematic nature of the texts in their time.
This show is more than an amusing historical critique, though. It’s a show that puts ancient events into our current context.
Verbosity is stripped away as English expertly shifts between the performance of Shakespearean texts, which Margaret’s character aptly identifies as ‘Shit Shakespeare Put I My Mouth’, and the embodiment of the woman that they demonise. Through this, we can see the bones of the story he propagated about her.
The modern-day parallels in the representation of women who destabilise patriarchal power structures are abundantly clear; it’s not only disturbing, but prompts the question of what it means to openly speak your truth as a woman.
While the show carries us through history, we see what did and did not happen through the lens of the She Wolf making a visit from hell to set the story straight. English’s skilful performance, delivered with trademark mordant humour, is engaging and approachable.
You don’t need to have a thorough knowledge of Shakespeare to enjoy this show, either. Everything you need to know is set out clearly by the She Wolf herself.
We loved this crash course in the consequences of patriarchal narratives and English's energetic interpretation of Margaret’s life. Oh, and the laughs about metaphorical sausage eating contests, a giant douche-muffin, and - yes indeed - Pickle Rick.
Queen Margaret of Anjou now has a voice, and for that we say Yaaaassss Queen to Gillian English.