ONE woman’s attempts to unite a disparate nation of insular tribes in rising up against a cruel and powerful invader lie at the heart of this epic production, but while Roman Britain provides the backdrop, it’s war and suffering of a wider nature which grabs the attention.
Avenging Iceni queen Boudica rouses a mismatched band of proto-Brits to drive out the foul-mouthed sex-crazed Romans and regain the country for its rightful inhabitants.
There are some hefty themes surfacing at points as the action mounts and the cruelty spills over. The brave struggle in Ukraine hovers, as does the downright duplicitous pigeonholing of all foreigners in a kind of swipe at the Make Britannia Great Again brigade. The reality about a very distant but dark period of our history is also there.
The depressingly inevitable consequences of invasion and subjugation are played out with as much blunt realism as you’d wish to see on a stage. The consignment of Boudica’s daughters to be the recreational playthings of their Roman vanquishers is truly uncomfortable as is the later hunting down of a child in a war-ravaged city street as his mother pleads directly with us to intervene.
But for all the brutal-but-goreless violence, it is the words which hit hardest and the quiet, reasoned and perfectly-supported rationale of those committing the atrocities which chill most. No matter how many times the label of monster is trotted out, the fact is that war, and its horrible consequences, can make anyone choose a moral route they would otherwise despise.
Although Boudica, excellently realised by Julie Godfrey, bestrides the play, it’s the fate and feelings of her two daughters which ultimately gives the play the humanity it needs to steer it away from being merely a gory, if captivating, history lesson.
Blodwynn (Rosie Pankhurst) is her mother’s daughter until thwarted ambition throws her up against her sister Alonna (Martha Allen-Smith) who, despite having similarly suffered abuse and brutality as a captive, finds herself on a more redemptive, peace-seeking path.
There’s fine acting from this trio in particular in a play which offers scope for the female perspective in what is plainly a man’s world. Elizabeth Morris’s direction places the emphasis on the acting and, in ensuring the action flows without hindrance,
produces a show which grips the attention from start to finish.
An excellent supporting cast, some genuinely inspirational staging and Richard Moore’s atmospheric, versatile design means this is a slick, impressive watch with plenty to enjoy and even more to think about.
Boudica plays until Saturday. Visit lofttheatrecompany.com for details.