Holly Williams, WhatsOnStage
"I wished Queen Anne would dig further into the personal – give us a greater sense of the women's past, their relationship – and leave off the politics a bit. There's an awful lot of little-known history stuffed into Queen Anne, which begins in 1702; layers and layers of Tory and Whig rivalry, Catholic and Protestant struggles, wars between Britain and its European allies against France and Spain, all puffing out like a petticoat – and hampering the play's movement. It can be slow, stately. Edmundson mostly avoids it feeling too much like a history lesson – but then you might feel like you needed one beforehand to really follow it all."
Michael Billington, The Guardian
"Garai offers an excellent mix of slyness and sensuality, and she is strongly matched by Emma Cunniffe as the obdurate, pious Anne. The rare pleasure, however, lies in seeing a history play in which two determined women are engaged in a battle for power; you have to go back to Schiller's Mary Stuart or Robert Bolt's Vivat! Vivat! Regina for comparable examples."
Ann Treneman, The Times
"Anne is the plain one, with her swollen legs and ulcers and her silly devoted Danish husband. She had 17 pregnancies but no surviving heirs. Sarah, pouting and hair-tossing, has all the glamour, not to mention a dashing general of a husband. This RSC production, last seen at the smaller Swan theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon at the end of 2015, has many political parallels with today, involving Scotland and Brexit, that get some knowing laughs from the audience."
"But, oh, it does feel a bit worthy, a history lesson that often seems like a re-enactment of sorts with some "fun scenes" thrown in. It is a very bitty play, with scores of scenes, all of which take place in the centre of the bare circular set that is surrounded by endless doors that open and close with alarming frequency, as if we are in a train stopping at station after station."
Natasha Tripney, The Stage
"As Anne, Emma Cunniffe gives a performance of tenderness and vulnerability. She's a pitiable figure at first, hobbled by gout and mouse-like in her manner, almost unbearably nervous when confronted by the hot-tempered king. But Cunniffe presents us with a woman slowly growing in fortitude; it is a delicate and sympathetic portrait."
"Romola Garai's Sarah exudes confidence in herself and disdain for Anne in equal measure. One can understand why Anne might once have been fascinated – and attracted – by such a creature, but as things sour between them so fast, it's hard to gauge whether there was ever any real affection between them."
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard
"A rich and satisfying new drama with two splendidly meaty female central characters that stands as a welcome corrective to the male bias that perforce dominates the company's core repertoire."
"It's so easy to underestimate Anne (Emma Cunniffe) at the start of Natalie Abrahami's fluid and confident production. Everyone at court does and we do too, as she's sickly and shy and in desperate thrall to the brilliant and ruthless Sarah Churchill, Countess of Marlborough (Romola Garai). Whereas Anne seeks a deep and intimate friendship, Sarah desires only political advancement for herself and her military hero husband John (Chu Omambala)."
"The ebbs and flows of Anne's fortunes are compellingly drawn against a backdrop of European unrest. That fine actress Cunniffe traces Anne's gradual unfurling with great delicacy; whereas Anne's reedy, needy voice may continue to waver, her resolve increasingly does not, even if it means facing down the formidable Marlborough power couple."
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
"Outspoken actress and self-styled "ticking grenade of gender anger" Romola Garai was recently reported as complaining in a newspaper interview that if "a theatre runs mostly plays by men, directed by men and starring men, what else can it be but misogyny?"
Yet the production she's lending her name, her semi-fame and her talent to at the Haymarket, Helen Edmundson's portrait of the last of the Stuarts – in which she stars as the queen's formidable, scheming best friend Sarah Churchill – hardly suggests there's some hateful male conspiracy afoot. Commercial producers have taken a risk bringing an intricate play about an under-known, relatively obscure period of British history to the heart of the West End. That it was championed by critics, myself included, at the RSC in Stratford when it opened in 2015 attests to the appetite most of us have for well-dramatised stories about women; we just need more of them, and this could, potentially, be a golden age for such writing."
"If I can't cheer quite as loudly as I did at the premiere, that's a basic consequence of the piece looking a touch over-exposed – and with top-price premium seats at £105, it's certainly over-priced."
Queen Anne runs at Theatre Royal Haymarket until 30 September.
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