This week we have been inundated with Royal memorabilia, celebration, and performance. Singers have reached the peaks of their careers at the Jubilee concert, classical music has found an unusually willing audience during Sunday’s flotilla, and choirs across the country have been enjoying the angelic voices soaring through St. Paul’s Cathedral. One thing I’ve noticed, however, has been the absence of theatre.
Throughout England’s history, theatre has left its mark. Shunned by puritans and delighted in by King James I, the stage has been important in the political, social, and historical progression of our country, and has found its place amongst the crown. King Charles II famously bedded Nell Gwyn, a young actress who found more fame and fortune by becoming the King’s mistress, but nevertheless has inspired books and plays about her journey from the boards to the bedchambers of London’s finest.
Similarly, Queen Elizabeth I was known for her love of the theatre, and commissioned the Lord Chamberlain’s Men to frequently play in her courts. Depictions of her enjoying the revels of Shakespeare’s plays have been portrayed in films such as Shakespeare in Love and more recently Anonymous, in which the rumour of the Earl of Oxford being the true playwright is explored.
With big spectacles like the Royal Variety Show exploding into London every November, I can’t help but wonder why, at this time of celebration and ceremony, more wasn’t done to highlight the relationship between the theatre world and the Royal crown. A rendition of the Lion King could have benefited from the extraordinary puppetry as seen on the West End, and if the Queen’s reaction to The National Theatre’s Joey (WarHorse) tribute is anything to go by, she may have thoroughly enjoyed a little more. View a video of the Queen’s response here.
I was pleased to hear the appreciation given to the stagehands and technicians working during the Jubilee concert, however. As someone who’s only recently tried my hand at the backstage set up and work before a performance, I can only imagine the incredible efforts put in by all involved, and I was impressed to hear Prince Charles thank those who go unnoticed. But perhaps the next time a royal event occurs, the theatre community can step up and see what they can contribute to the festivities and revelries.