Do Your Blazing Core of Repressed Rage A Favour: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s ‘Emilia’

Do Your Blazing Core of Repressed Rage A Favour: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s ‘Emilia’

“Take the fire as your OWN. You can use it! The houses that have been built around us are not made of stone. The stakes we have been tied to will NOT survive if our flames burn bright. If they try to burn you… may your fire be strong enough so you can burn the WHOLE. FUCKING. HOUSE. DOWN.”

THAT was how Emilia brought the Globe down last night. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s play is a volcano of feminist rage erupting with absolutely zero fucks to give about how many misogynists it eviscerates along the way. The beautifully diverse all-female cast chronicles the entire life of Emilia Bassano, England’s first published female poet and a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, weaving each scrap of historical evidence we have about her into a symphonic story of the woman who defied every rule of her day to reclaim her voice and her power from those bred to silence her.

I knew I had to bless my eyes with this fearless production the moment I came across this tweet from a fellow bookseller.

Have you seen a more soul-demanding recommendation?

Clocking in at just under three hours, Nicole Charles has directed a broiling behemoth of a call to arms that uses the space in the Globe to truly stunning effect, with the players wading into the stalls multiple times, breaking the fourth wall, and revelling in Anna Morrisey’s jubilant choreography. And they did it all in pouring rain.

The beautiful and fierce Leah Harvey shines as the youngest version of Emilia as she finds her muses (I can’t wait to see her career take off), while Vinette Robinson as the older Emilia captures her grace and endurance as she overcomes barrier after barrier. The script is obviously fire but she mines such depths in it and brings out so many nuanced beats and breaths.

I’ll never forget how she reacts to Shakespeare (ingeniously portrayed by Charity Wakefield) dismissing and diminishing her grief and urging her to just be at peace, how she roars after him: “I will never be at peace as long as I. HAVE. NO. VOICE.” Also that beat of silence when she rants about how there couldn’t be anything more violating, that was indescribable.

And there is no other way to characterise what happened in the last soliloquy than with that Korra gif – the indomitable Clare Perkins as the oldest Emilia utterly transformed the audience into a single synchronous sisterhood BAYING for blood. THAT is the power of art and representation and reclamation.

It resonated on a cellular level with every single woman in that crowd, that’s for sure. Watching it is like having dilithium crystals flung wantonly into the warp core of your imagination. I wish National Theatre Live were filming it before it closes.

Shout-out to Anna Andresen in her all-velvet get-up, and to the comic timing of Shiloh Coke and Amanda Wilkin. Every cast member plays about five different characters, all brilliant, but Amanda as Emilia’s flamboyant husband literally had me crying with laughter. The entire ensemble are just superlative and I’ve never had an audience experience like it, the closest thing was the London opening of Hamilton. Think on that.

You’ve only got one week left to see it, folks.

Do your blazing core of repressed rage a favour.

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