Review by Danny Gaisin
As any history buff will know, the mid-sixteenth century in Britain was a time of strife. A queen without an heir; Protestant and Catholic animosities, and politics – with all the intrinsic intrigues; diplomacies; maneuvering; and especially ambition. Theatre Erindale’s presentation of Beth Flintoff’s play THE GLOVE THIEF depicts three of the most powerful women of the period…Queen Elizabeth I; Mary Stuart of Scotland and the extremely wealthy Beth Hardwick , Countess of Shrewsbury. The regal pair and the status seeking ‘Bess’ all interact with ‘Rose’, the title character; and thus through her eyes and thoughts, this play is Brit History 101.
Jenette Meehan & Sarah AbdelRahman in a dramatic moment photo by Michael Slater
Under the intricate and meticulous direction of Meredith Scott, the major characters (with the exception of Elizabeth) are played by two role interpreters; one acting the role, the other voicing the impressions and thoughts of the character. At first, it requires concentration to unite the two, but once the concept is mentally established, the play not only progresses but fascinates. The supposed thief -Rose is played Maggie Kennedy and her concepts also contribute bits of humor and drollery. Kennedy is a consummate actress who connects with the other cast members as well as her character’s doppelganger. She is press-ganged into servitude; becomes a seamstress and then a designer of tapestries. Thus, she is involved with Reid Martin as Countess Bess (Danielle Wells- is persona 2); thence with Sarah AbdelRahman portraying Mary Stuart with Natalie Skov as persona 2. Samantha Dodds is bang-on as Kennedy’s alter ego.
The above are strongly supported by Daniel Gravelle playing Martin’s husband and Michael Roy Course as the manipulative Lord Walsingham. Each role, lead or support, is intrinsic and contributes to the historical events progressing on stage. Are we confused yet?
Reid Martin’s ‘Bess’ captures all the finagling and concerns of a social climber and she’s especially effective in depicting rationalization in the pursuit of her goals. Every posture carries an underscoring of emotion and bifurcation. Abdelrahman’s ‘Mary’ is by far the most identifiable and even a history maven will kind of hope she’ll actually succeed instead of meeting the same fate as Ann Boleyn! BTW- so does Oliver James Parkins’ Duke of Norfolk and Nicholas Buchanan‘s Bishop John Lesley.
The set, designed by Peter Urbanek is stark and utilizes large threadlike lines and huge thread spindles as props. Director Scott has accomplished pace and continuity with rapid and almost vignette blocking. She is especially creative with her entry/egress. This is a difficult story to direct, stage and perform. That it all works and comes together is a credit to both cast and crew making GLOVE THIEF – theatre at its best. The play is at UTM’s Erindale until next weekend.
Caveat:- the background music has an emphatic bass that may hurt some of us older listeners unused to today’s rap or percussion output.