Monday, July 15

The Nine Day Queen – Barons Court Theatre

It’s said that birds of a feather flock together- until the cat comes. When danger looms does solidarity dissipate? Can you really save yourself if no one else is safe? How can women do right by each other when the world seems so determined to do us wrong?

The fledgling Itchy Feet Theatre Company asks these questions and more in their new staging of The Nine Day Queen both written and directed by Jen Tucker. A youthful and bright-eyed company of four delicate but determined looking girls is anchored in this performance by Maddie White as Rita, a fifteen-year-old, whose best friend Lena (Moya Matthews) has suffered a brutal attack and is hospitalized and comatose. While Rita awaits Lena’s eventual reawakening or untimely passing, she dwells in memories of their friendship, buries herself in informative literature, and after several sleepless nights begins a friendship with the nine-day queen herself, Lady Jane Grey (Samantha Allison) a vision dispatched to educate her on some mysterious moral by even hazier forces of vaguely supernatural feminist interference. Rita argues with Jane and antagonizes Val (Lizzie O’Reilly), Lena’s easily exasperated but sympathetic and practical day nurse, but the real engine of this piece is her friendship with Lena which is so achingly heart wrenching to anyone who has ever been a young girl with a heart overflowing with both love and anger and no clear path to dispersing either.

Matthews and White have a familiar chemistry that is immediately convincing, and their scenes together feel both commonplace and important. The dramatic intervention of the Lady Jane Grey on the other hand is a significantly harder sell. Allison acts the role with decorous poise and conveys a timelessness beyond her age but is nonetheless bound by the constraints of the piece’s very minimal staging and rather sparse venue. Neither wholly metatheatrical nor entirely unselfconscious the play’s fantastic costumes don’t entirely meld with its almost complete lack of set and the timelessly adolescent soundtrack pumped in between its scenes never feels sufficiently evocative or perfectly appropriately timed to the dramatic moment at hand. Paired with underwhelmingly informative projections at each scene transition, this staging slightly undercuts the considerable power of its script.

For a piece with trigger warnings ranging from references to nudity and sex, discussions of sexual assault, detailed discussions of death and dying, sexism and misogyny, violence, and mental illness, The Nine Day Queen demands significant attention but never quite truly captures it.

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 17th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.