Liz

Mon 13th – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Melissa Tutesigensi

at 09:15 on 14th Aug 2018

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Chevron Theatre’s ‘Liz’ is an attempt at fusing the humorous with the factual that translates as more Horrible Histories than Hamilton. They were telling the story of Queen Elizabeth I in a comedic way – think of the Channel 4 fictional soap opera ‘The Windsor’s’. It was a valiant effort but it didn’t always hit the right note at times and failed in its consistency.

The main weakness with the show was the narrative which produced a weak and reductive rendition of this Liz’s story. It had so much potential that, unfortunately, it didn’t live up to. She ends up finding the strength to conquer all of her trials through the strength of her mum, Anne Boleyn’s, floating head for instance. While this offered one of the funniest parts of the show – with lines like “oh Lizzie you’re in such shit” and “besides, I’m just a fucking floating head” – it was a clumsy mechanism to push the story forward. I know that ‘Liz’ is not a serious history lecture but the way this particular historical story was told, seemed all too simple.

The rudimentary narrative was accompanied by a handful of unconvincing jokes. I suppose they were chosen with the aim of poking fun at modern issues but they fell flat. In reaction to his two councillors coming out, Phillip II of Spain says “of course I hold no prejudice, you’re not Jewish are you”. Another line of his is “I’m still totally in my ebony phase,” used only so that his counsellors could criticise his stupidity. Other quips about immigrants and sexual harassment were made throughout the show and, whilst they were always used in a way so as to mock the insult, it all felt unnecessary. In truth, the most genuine moments of comedy came from the energy of each character and it felt like they should have stuck with drawing the humour from this rather than lazily relying on contentious topics to carry on the laughter.

That is not to say that certain parts were not commendable. For all its shortcomings, ‘Liz’ still delivers moments of quality and humour. My favourite part was the Navy song routine as a group of men ready to fight the Armada begin by displaying obvious signs of masculinity but reveal that in fact they’re “the queerest vessel on the seven seas.” Likewise, there were strong actors that genuinely stood out from an already and evidently talented cast. But that was the issue with ‘Liz’ – it was a show that delivered sprinkles of good moments, but it didn't have much to tie it together. It wasn’t consistent in its quality, comedy or potency. In this case, 'Liz' wasn’t greater than the sum of its parts, but rather some parts were great while the sum was underwhelming.

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Charlie Norton

at 17:26 on 14th Aug 2018

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To echo the sentiments of a cast member overheard in the public bathrooms after the opening night of ‘Liz’, “it went alright but I don’t think the audience dug it”. The issue with Chevron Theatre’s production is not one of execution but of content: generally strong performances do not prove sufficient to jump the hurdles of a drab and offensive script.

‘Liz’ is a new musical comedy by Louis Patterson and Harry Style which centres around the titular figure of Queen Elizabeth I, depicting a fictionalized interpretation of her courtly relations and private concerns in the context of an impending war with Spain. The hour-long sequence of songs and speeches sees a smorgasbord of parodic characters – from the unhinged King Philip of Spain to the Queen’s ditsy chambermaid – navigate the highs and lows of Tudor life through song and dance.

As an ensemble the cast are strong, tackling numbers with solid vocals and impeccable diction. In the guise of peasants, clad in rags and snarling, they manage to elicit a few laughs with resentful songs about impoverished existence. The principles also give confident performances: Zac Harvey-Wright as King Philip commands the stage with a well-executed comedy accent (‘hello every-Juan’) and Eilish Convery, despite some pitchy notes, delivers a competent portrayal of Liz. The clear standout is Eloise Rust with her well-paced and melodic portrayal of an Anne Boleyn, who laments her disembodied ghost form “I’m a f*cking floating head!” I also personally enjoyed the chorus of monks, who are reminiscent of Monty Python.

Unfortunately, the technical capabilities of the cast are squandered on a poorly written script. Attempts at comedy depend on lazy shock tactics, with mindless racist comments (Philip references his “ebony phase”) and an unnecessary rape joke. If reworked, some of the score could be salvageable – the chorus of the camp English navy shows potential which could absolutely be achieved if some nuance was given to the lyrics – but as it stands the show is so heavily punctuated with explicit language that it loses all comic value. On top of this, the questions of ‘historical accuracy’ and ‘artistic license’ are addressed through disruptive shouts of both phrases, and the appearance of two superfluous characters – Medusa and a banana wearing sunglasses – in a failed attempt at absurdism. These random additions seriously disrupt the pacing of the production and were met with straight faces.

Despite a sell-out first night, the audience left the theatre with an apparently unanimous sense of disappointment. The premise of the show clearly has potential otherwise it would not have aroused such interest, and it’s a huge shame to see such a talented cast and a wealth of historic material wasted on an ultimately offensive and boring script.

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