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Queen Anne’s early 18th century reign happened at an extraordinary time of social change: she oversaw the birth of the free press, the growth of a political two-party system, and the rise of satire. Helen Edmundson, the author of a new play about her, says that many people don’t even know we had a Queen Anne.“They assume the play is about one of Henry VIII’s wives.” If you’re one of the perplexed, don’t worry - Edmundson’s play opens at the Theatre Royal Haymarket tonight, and will shed new light on a queen who “has been ignored for far too long.” Queen Anne (also the title of the play) charts the intrigues and manoeuvring at her court, with Romola Garai returning to the London stage as her friend Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and Emma Cunniffe reprising her performance as Queen Anne herself. Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough, played by Garai also wrote “scathingly” about Anne in her memoirs, dismissing her as dull and weak.Like Elizabeth I, she provided no heir and thus a mighty succession headache.It’s so easy to underestimate Anne (Emma Cunniffe) at the start of Natalie Abrahami’s fluid and confident production.The ebbs and flows of Anne’s fortunes are compellingly drawn, as the Whigs and Tories embark on a not-so-covert campaign to gain her ear, her purse and her preferment, against a backdrop of European unrest.That fine actress Cunniffe traces Anne’s gradual unfurling with great delicacy; whereas Anne’s reedy, needy voice may continue to waver, her resolve increasingly does not, even if it means facing down the formidable Marlborough power couple.
See full summary » Emma Woodhouse seems to be perfectly content, a loving father whom she cares for, friends, and a home. At the center of the story is Augustus Melmotte, a European-born city financier, whose origins are as mysterious as his business dealings.
A quick brush-up on the historical background helps, but writer Helen Edmundson offers such gripping narrative momentum that those who are no experts in lesser-known English monarchs certainly won’t feel excluded.
Anne Stuart, who ruled for 12 years from 1702, was the designated successor to William and Mary of Orange, born to a land beset by tensions between Catholic and Protestant factions.
No more Divine Right, but a monarch who rules with the blessing of God and in partnership with Parliament - very much what we have today,” Edmundson says.
“She was temperamentally suited to allowing for that crucial development.” The production coming to the Theatre Royal Haymarket isn’t just significant because it opened not long after Anne’s death.