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A modern tale of women, sexuality, power and freedom, set in the year 1000

Wednesday, May 2 2001
The year 1000 was marked by various civil wars, predictions of Armageddon, and questionable and inept rulers (sound familiar?). Against this backdrop British playwright Moira Buffini fictionalizes the story of that era's actual king and queen of England. But this is no stuffy history play: Rather, it's a surprisingly modern exploration of the role of women, questions of sexuality, and the struggle for power and freedom -- made more intense by the characters' relatively young ages. Ymma of Normandy (Nina Gold) is a spiteful and venomous young woman, sent against her will to Britain to marry the 14-year-old Silence (Rachel Black), Lord of Cumbria; they come together under the care of King Ethelred (Liam Vincent). Buffini's rich script comes to life with a marvelous local cast that gives any out-of-towners I've seen lately a run for their money. Black seamlessly inhabits Silence's pure innocence while retaining his powerful side, creating charged moments with the electrifying Gold: "I'm saying my prayers and then you better watch out!" Silence warns Ymma on their wedding night, in response to Ymma's repeated disdain of Silence's age. Ymma is intelligently cunning, gaining power as she guards Silence's life-threatening secret, yet softening her demeanor ("What a strange creature you are," she says lovingly). In more humorous moments, the priest Roger (Alex Moggridge) tutors Silence in Christianity and in the art of lovemaking, though he's clearly embarrassed by the task ("You have a thing and the thing will grow"). Haunted by apocalyptic dreams, a crisis of faith, and a stirring sexuality, Roger -- like Ymma -- seeks freedom from his prescribed role in life, as does Ymma's servant Agnes (a delightful Delia MacDougall). The characters embark on a treacherous journey, and whether they succeed depends largely on the tormented warrior Eadric (Craig Neibaur) and the incompetent King Ethelred (a crowd-pleasing Vincent), who has his own (tragically erroneous) revelations of power. As a result of Buffini's strong choice to tell all the characters' stories, the pace necessarily falters in spots, but mostly clips along under Barbara Damashek's deft and inventive direction (though the trend of realistic vomit is getting tiresome). The show's been extended -- lucky for those who haven't seen it yet.

About The Author

Karen McKevitt


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