I have just finished watching Elizabeth:The Golden Age after spending the majority of the day learning lines to play Elizabeth in Mary Stuart.
The first thing I have to say is that Elizabeth:The Golden Age is an excellent film. Way better than the first Elizabeth which was still good. I would also like to assert that Clive Owen really didn’t require quite that much fake tan and it is really wrong to find Eddie Redmayne that attractive when he was quite that young.
Cate Blanchett is of course astounding. It is mildly worrying that the image that the majority of the audience will have in their heads is her in a giant yellow tafetta dress and wig screaming “I have a hurricane in me that will strip Spain bare when you dare to try me!”. So, no pressure then.
The way that our company works means we don’t use the minimum set, props and costume that we require. Our concept is nothing but us being actors in a space telling a story. This doesn’t mean that we just stand there in our rehearsal clothes. well, it might do it depends how things develop as we rehearse.
Which leaves me wondering how I am going to make this great woman come alive. The thing is Schiller’s Elizabeth is even more fictional than the version of her that was canoodling with Clive Owen on my telly half an hour ago. The whole play revolves around the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary Stuart. This never happened in reality. Plus the characters that appear in the play are chronologically incorrect Burleigh was long dead by the time of Stuart’s execution and Leicester had been outed as a love-rat way before sororicide was even mentioned (though really it was just plain parracide with a little regicide, depending on your religious beliefs). So the Elizabeth that I am going to portray is pure fiction.
Do I then need red hair and white skin? Do I need a big collar and a bustle? Do I even need to speak in received pronunciation?
I suppose that I will discover all of those things in the rehearsal room. In the meantime what I can take from the film is some inspiration from Blanchett. A quite awe-inspiring actor at any time I found her performance in this film fascinating. She imbibed Elizabeth with a core of steel yet allowed the vulnerability and frustration of her loneliness to show. Her Elizabeth is the dictionary definition of the phrase: It is tough at the top.
I don’t know whether it is a good thing in the slightest but there are something’s that I can appreciate about Elizabeth’s position. Of course it is to a lesser degree (for I am not the Queen of anything, never mind England) but I know the feeling of having to stay in control, in power to get things done even when you feel like falling head first into bed and weeping for days. i know the pain of being passed by by the man you love for an ‘easier option’ when you are considered to complicated in both situation and internal life. I like many of us know what it is to be deceived by those we thought were our closest companions. I know what it is to have to make decisions that will cause others pain to save my own skin.
What I am trying to say is; for all Elizabeth’s being a queen, she isn’t that dissimilar to me. yes, the decisions and problems she has are on a grander scale and most of them hold either her own or her subjects lives in their sway. But their real problem is she is a human being scared of being alone. We can all relate to that. Some people might say they prefer being alone, but that is just because they are scared of enjoying getting close to someone and then finding themselves without them and hurting.
In conclusion I’d say that watching Cate Blanchett stride around in a series of big dresses has been very helpful in my own preparation. She made me see that ultimately this queen I am going to portray is a human and so I need to approach it in the same way as I would were I playing any human. I can worry about the hair later.
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