This play by Moira Buffini was kind-of based on the life of Emma of Normandy and followed the fortunes of six characters: Emma herself (here called Ymma), her maid Agnes, Silence the 14-year-old Lord of Cumbria (not really), Roger a priest , Ethelred the Unready, and Eadric the King’s man.
It annoyed me more than a little because it the play didn’t seem to know what it wanted to do. There was some cheap anachronistic fun at the expense of the 10th century and the feeling that the characters wanted to throw of their disguises and display correct attitudes regarding slavery, sexual violence, that God nonsense and anything else you care to think of. (Of course, I rather enjoy anything that portrays English royalty in the worst possible effete yet genocidal light, but that’s just me.) Sometimes it looked like we were going to get real feeling between the characters and action that sprung out of that, but it was not to be.
Then there was the journey by cart through the whole of England that seemed to have no point at all–it didn’t develop the characters or advance the plot.
If I had to say what the idea of it all was, it would have to be something about that end-of-the-world feeling, since the action took place around 1000 AD and the play ended with a speech from Roger along those lines; and we learned about Norse-style eschatology with the wolf Chaos ripping the sun from the sky as well. Then the epilogic speech from Agnes about Ethelred being deposed and Ymma marrying Canute says that you have to go on living?
There were no programmes available on the first night, but it is possible to track down the cast on the Large Print Theatre Facebook page. I thought they did rather well, especially Brigid Lohrey (who made the most of being an adult woman allowed to play an adult woman) and Samantha Béart (who made the most of the opposite).