I, Elizabeth – An Interview with Rebecca Vaughan
Published: 7th July 2021
INTERVIEW WITH REBECCA VAUGHAN
Ahead of her visit to The Customs House on Saturday, we caught up with Rebecca Vaughan of DYAD Productions to talk about I, Elizabeth:
Who Are Dyad Productions?
We started 12 years ago, we currently have 10 show which we tour, a lot of our shows are adaptations of literature or history, and of course I, Elizabeth is very much about the young Elizabeth the 1st.
Could you tell us where did the idea come from for I, Elizabeth?
It was actually the second show I wrote, I’d just finished a show called Austen’s Woman and I’d really fallen in love with solo shows. I was really interested in finding something that I would be passionate about, and I knew a lot of other people would be very passionate about, and I’d always loved, ever since I was at school, when you learn about kings and queens, I’d always been fascinated by Elizabeth 1, and then I happened to come across a book, completely by accident, I was in the library, I was looking for something else, I couldn’t find it, and this book had fallen off the shelf, and it was called Elizabeth 1 Collected Works, and I thought, WHAT!, I didn’t know Elizabeth had actually written anything, but what it turned out to be was stories, letters, poems, jottings, occasional prayers, and what became really interesting to me is the Elizabeth that I had always read about or heard or seen in films was either the young princess, the glorianna, or the fierce queen that she became as she got older, and I didn’t really know how she got there, and the more I read, the more I thought there’s a story here, so I decided to create the piece of work, but I wanted it to be as honest as possible so I only used her words in the show, it’s about as close as we can get to really understanding the inner workings of the woman behind the throne.
How did you approach the writing?
I put together a piece that works chronologically for the story I’m trying to tell, I wanted to make it more of a collage, so people could really feel they were watching something that was almost a window through history.
Do the audience need a knowledge of Elizabeth to enjoy the show?
I’ve performed this show in America, and of course, their understanding of the intricacies of the Elizabethan Court are very, very small and it went down a storm there, so I’d say you don’t need to necessarily understand everything…it’s useful if you know a couple of basic things, most people in this country have had some kind of education about her at school. We know she’s a queen that remained on the throne for a long time, she remained unmarried, and she was the daughter of Henry VIII, if you come with that, that’ll be a good start. Equally, we’ve had people who know lots, or have seen films, and have said that they’ve discovered so much more.
Could you explain the plot / main narrative?
I set it in 1568 and she’s been queen for ten years but she’s very vulnerable, she still doesn’t quite trust herself and she hasn’t quite become the fierce queen we see a lot of pictures of. The year before, a lot of things go wrong for her, it’s the year she finally decides she’s not going to marry, she’s not going to have children, it’s the year when religious problems and war start really happening, it’s the year Mary Queen of Scots lands in England and threatens her crown, a lot of big ,big problems start happening and she had no one to talk to, even her closest advisors have an agenda, and she has this opportunity in the play, speaking to us, to unburden herself of the things that are on her mind, and hopefully through talking to us, she actually finds a peace and a strength she’ll need to go on and become the queen we know her to be. What’s really interesting is the language, you have bits of the show that highlight an older way of speaking, and the minute you hear it you click into it and it feels really normal, it feels colloquial, the way she chats is really interesting.
Do you have anything specific you’d like the audience to take away from the play?
I think the thing that often happens, is that firstly, they really begin to understand what the stresses of power are, a lot of us will never know the weight of a country on our shoulders, and I think it’s so emotional, audiences really get caught up in that, they realise she’s not just a painting on a wall, but a woman trying to rule in a very difficult time – when woman weren’t even supposed to be on the throne, they really get the sense of who she was, and I think that brings something that sometimes at school we may have read about, and it really brings it to life. The emotional journey of it is something that the audiences enjoy as well. She’s VERY funny, but she can turn on a sixpence and can be FEAR, she can move between these emotions and I think, to see that on stage is interesting for an audience.