We've all heard of Shakespeare, right? But much like myself before seeing this play, I doubt you know much about the real story behind his words; the parts that are hidden away, suppressed, and wrongly triumphed by the masculinity of the time. 'Emilia' reveals the truth behind 'Dark Lady of the Sonnets'- the bits we still aren't but definitely should be taught in school.
Writing Emilia Bassano back into history, this play explores the life of the literate, and how she went from courtship to changing the world. It traces back her struggles to break free from the patriarchal society, finally bringing to light her attempts at carving out her own space in time. Her revolutionary narrative perfectly portrays the vicious fight that women have spent centuries warring against to get to where we are today.
Broadening my horizons in terms of the shows I see is always something I've been open to, and I thoroughly urge others to do the same. I wouldn't have thought to choose 'Emilia', yet couldn't be happier that I did. With a stellar all female cast (yes, that includes the male parts too!), this play is revolutionary, presenting so much diversity on one stage. It truly brings forward the talent that these women possess, since still to this day, theatre is often lacking ladies at the forefront of shows.
Marking different chapters in Emilia's life, three actresses play her character: Saffron Coomber begins, followed by Adelle Leonce and concluded by Clare Perkins. They each bring their own unique attributes to the script, perfectly capturing the development of her personality over time. Genius playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm has created a masterpiece, turning an old untold tale into something fresh for the stage of today. With modern references dropped in and faultless comedic timing throughout, this play is a rollercoaster of emotions- ideal for such a sombre yet powerful story of an incredibly important historical trailblazer.
The Vaudeville Theatre is a beautiful theatre, and this show fully utilises its facilities. Engulfing the audience into Emilia's world, the cast appear in all around the place, from the boxes in the circle to the side aisles in the stalls, truly immersing us into the action. There's also the opportunity for those in the stalls to collect a little something to take home with them, by grabbing a copy of any written pages left on the floor at the end of the show- a lovely momento.
As if we weren't gripped enough, the ending scene is almost indescribable- something else all together. Forget just burning bras, this play burns down the towns we stand among. Clare Perkins does the most phenomenal job representing Emilia and her ferocious thoughts, with her fiery, fearless passion rippling through the room with every word. Poured straight from her soul, both extreme anger and a bitter sadness sweep the room, stunning each and every face sat there. The atmosphere is sensational: the roar from the crowd upon the final words openly exhibits the way the connection between the show and audience makes them feel as if they need to be screaming from the rooftops too.
'Emilia' will live on within me forever. Without her story, you would not be reading this right now. I feel so blessed to live in a society where women are able to live in liberation, with the freedom we all deserve. Though we cannot stop here, this play highlights the distance we have come because of our diligence and determination over the years. As a young, female writer, this woman is one of my ultimate heroines: my life revolves around something that simply wouldn't be possible otherwise, and for that I am eternally grateful.
You NEED to see 'Emilia'. It's simply something every human walking this planet should witness, just to understand how we got to where society is today. Her astounding 400 year old story must take the place in the history books that it deserves. It's such a thought provoking piece of theatre that keeps the audience captivated through seeing something unforgettable. 'Emilia' will make you walk out a different person to that you walked in as, leaving you empowered beyond belief and feeling as if you can take on the world with full force. Grab some tickets and see it now- it's essential.