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Elizabeth Rex

af Timothy Findley

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574356,892 (3.67)11
What makes a man a man and woman a woman? Late at night on the eve of her lover's execution, this is the question Queen Elizabeth descends to the stable lodgings of Shakespeare's players to wrestle with. Her unexpected arrival disturbs Shakespeare and his rag-tag troupe after their evening's performance and provokes the rapler-sharp, haughty indifference of Ned, Shakespeare's genius performer of women's roles. Aging, broken by syphilis, and suffering from lost love, Ned is every bit as caustic and imperious as the Queen, whose despair over Lord Essex's pending death is apparent to everyone but herself.… (mere)
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A surprisingly well written entry into this genre. This play does not read like that of a person who needs to promote one view or another, but rather like someone playing with history, and taking two interesting historical characters along for the ride. It is set in a royal barn the night before the execution of the Earl of Essex, and Elizabeth takes refuge in the barn to spend the night talking with the players in Shakespeare's company, who have just been performing Much Ado about Nothing. The conversation veers into philosophical places at times, and the play definitely shows its roots in England. In America, this play would have been kicked around the development process until there were some "stakes" or someone "wanted" something...as it is, we have an interesting piece about people interacting as people do. Definitely worth the time. ( )
  Devil_llama | Apr 3, 2017 |
This is a play that imagines an encounter between the Queen and Will near the end of her reign. The night before her beloved Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is to be beheaded for treason, Queen Elizabeth commands the Lord Chamberlain's Men to perform a play at her palace. The Queen has sentenced Essex to death—and only she can pardon him. With the threat of rioting in the streets, a curfew is imposed and the actors must be lodged that night in the royal stables. Desperately needing distraction from the fateful night's events, Elizabeth seeks out the company of Shakespeare and the actors. But it is not Shakespeare who commands her attention as much as does Ned Lowenscroft, the actor she has seen portray Shakespeare's leading female roles. Covered in bruises and sores, Ned is dying of syphilis—giving him a fool's license as he engages the Queen in verbal combat through the night while she awaits the morning.

The play is filled with wit and wordplay, and Findley's characters, in addition to Will and the Queen, include a sort of a fool in the person of Luddy Beddoes and the troupe of which Ned is the most important member. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jan 7, 2012 |
This is a CBC Radio production of the play that asks the not-at-all musical question: "Does a gay guy who plays women on stage really know more about being a woman than an actual woman?" The answer, of course, is heck, no! Gay men are not transsexuals; they are men, and they understand as men. This play is actually rather a good illustration of this.

I once saw this on CBC television. Well, glimpsed actually, it was done with an all-male cast and bored me to tears. This production, directed by the distinguished Canadian actor Martha Henry, has the plus of featuring three roles for older female actors, rare indeed.

Set in a barn, the dying Shakespeare recalls another barn back in 1603 on the night between Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. A younger Shakespeare and a not-so-merry band of players spend the hours after a performance of Twelfth Night in the company of the ancient Queen Elizabeth I, awaiting the cannon-fire that will signal the execution of the Earl of Essex.

My elder daughter studied this as part of her AP Grade Twelve literature course. Times have changed. There is no way I would have been permitted to study something like this in high school. Full of death, dying, sexual innuendo and ambiguity, I wonder what a class of seventeen-year-olds was able to make of the tale, told by and about much older people who, unlike teenagers (no matter how jaded), have done much and seen more. Much of the play concerns a confrontation between Elizabeth and player-of-female-roles Ned Lowenscroft who is dying of the pox. It's a clash of arrogance against arrogance. Elizabeth believes she knows about being a man (hence "Elizabeth Rex") and Lowenscroft thinks he can instruct Elizabeth in being a woman.

It's a bit over-the-top, but that's an acting community for you. It is cleverly done and not soon forgotten. ( )
  lilyfathersjoy | Jun 10, 2010 |
didn't like this one. had a chance to see it in nyc but it didn't work out. it was an interesting idea but didn't like the way it was done. i see that others really liked it.????? ( )
  mahallett | Sep 30, 2008 |
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What makes a man a man and woman a woman? Late at night on the eve of her lover's execution, this is the question Queen Elizabeth descends to the stable lodgings of Shakespeare's players to wrestle with. Her unexpected arrival disturbs Shakespeare and his rag-tag troupe after their evening's performance and provokes the rapler-sharp, haughty indifference of Ned, Shakespeare's genius performer of women's roles. Aging, broken by syphilis, and suffering from lost love, Ned is every bit as caustic and imperious as the Queen, whose despair over Lord Essex's pending death is apparent to everyone but herself.

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