IT IS with a defiant beat of a drum that we are flung from our seats into the raging world of a first-century Britain bucking against the yoke of Roman occupation.
Anna-Maria Nabiyre’s charged opening soliloquy assures us that we are in the hands of master story-tellers, and we surrender to Tristan Bernays’s odyssean work of history, eulogy and myth.
Boudica is a traumatic ode to the eponymous barbarian Queen of the Iceni, and also a moving investigation into the fierce devotion of a mother’s love amidst the age-old struggle over “honour, land, country, tribe and language.”
Director Eleanor Rhode brings together a stellar cast who could hardly be more committed or immersed. Joan Iyiola and Natalie Simpson are stunning in their portrayal of the two princesses and Samuel Collings is a riot as the flamboyant Catus Deciamus.
As the old saying goes, there are no small parts and though she only appears midway through the play, Kate Handford gives a gutsy performance as Silvia — a Roman civilian who gives voice to some of the more nuanced moral arguments of the play.
The title role is played by an electrifying Gina McKee, who holds the stage with a ragged, feline quality, embodying with skill both the brutality and the grace that Bernays’s writing demands of the Celtic Queen.
Composer Jules Maxwell provides the heartbeat of the piece with a percussive soundscape that peaks with a rowdy chorus of London’s Calling — a seemingly inconsistent nod to the war-cries of a different generation but which works on the crowd like magic.
Designer Tom Piper’s modular set creates the clash of wood on stone and fight directors Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown find elegant movement solutions to the gory events of the play.
The Globe serves as the perfect setting for this work of Shakespearean scale which echoes the rumbling of overhead storms with its own thunder and menace.