Review: Boudica is 'a seriously thought-provoking dramatic work' at the Barn

PUBLISHED: 13:34 31 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:22 04 June 2019

Simon Parr as a Roman soldier and Laura Eddy as Boudica in play Boudica at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

Simon Parr as a Roman soldier and Laura Eddy as Boudica in play Boudica at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

John Davies

Emily Perry reviews Boudica at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City.

Katherine Steed as Alonna and Matthew Greenbank as Gaius Suetonius in Boudica at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John DaviesKatherine Steed as Alonna and Matthew Greenbank as Gaius Suetonius in Boudica at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

Boudica. Her name more commonly spelled as Boadicea, the heroine of this week's play at the Barn, led a bloody revolt against the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 60, more than a hundred years after the first sortie by Julius Caesar and 15 before most of our island was finally subdued.

That sentence contains a bit more than I knew about her before doing the research for this review.

I was relieved that everyone else I've spoken to on the subject shared my ignorance; which is surprising, for the play tells a truly gripping story, with disturbing echoes of more recent conflicts.

The widow of the King of the Iceni, Boudica was swindled by a corrupt Roman administrator out of her husband's inheritance.

Godfrey Marriott as Catus Deciamus in Boudica at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John DaviesGodfrey Marriott as Catus Deciamus in Boudica at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

When she protested, she and her two daughters were savagely punished.

She sought revenge, enlisting the help of two other British tribal kings, and after killing 70,000 Romans and their British supporters was finally defeated, killing herself by eating deadly nightshade.

The play goes beyond those known facts to show us the military and diplomatic skills needed to raise such an effective revolt, and also to highlight the moral dilemmas faced by anyone who goes to war, however just that war might be.

This latter point is well illustrated by the problem faced by her daughter Alonna (a sensitive performance by Katherine Steed), who despite her personal sufferings is sufficiently outraged by the brutality meted out by her own allies, to seek a truce with the Romans.

Jim Markey as Cunobeline, Laura Eddy as Boudica, Katherine Steed as Alonna, and Grace Maynard as Blodwynn in Boudica at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John DaviesJim Markey as Cunobeline, Laura Eddy as Boudica, Katherine Steed as Alonna, and Grace Maynard as Blodwynn in Boudica at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

The biggest role in the play is, of course, Boudica herself, played with authority and force by Laura Eddy. A truly magnificent performance this, the ferocity tempered by glimpses of the queen's subtle intelligence.

Laura was matched in acting skill by Jim Markey as Cunobeline, King of the Trinovantes, her loyal if initially reluctant ally.

Too many supporting roles to mention everyone else by name, but the acting throughout was of the level I have to come to expect of the Barn.

Tristan Bernays' play was first performed at the Globe in London in 2017, so it is encouraging to see our local theatre once again bringing us something relatively new.

Boudica at the Barn TheatreBoudica at the Barn Theatre

Don't just go to expand your knowledge of our national history: this is a seriously thought-provoking dramatic work.

Boudica plays at the Barn Theatre until Saturday, June 8.

Visit www.barntheatre.co.uk for tickets.

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