Dramsoc: Queen C Review

Mieke O'Brien reviews Dramsoc's production of Laura Ruohonen's Queen C.Life in a 17th century Scandinavian Royal court – this is the scene entered when viewing UCD Dramsoc’s Queen C, written by Finnish playwright Laura Ruohonen, and translated by David Hackston. Yet the ensuing depiction of the life and struggles experienced by the Swedish-Finnish Queen Christina demonstrates that director Onerva Helne, assisted by Sean Mac Dhonnagáin, understood that this play concerns anything but traditional affairs of stiff court proceedings. Instead, Queen C presents the tale of a woman who refuses to be typified by fulfilling the female task of reproduction, as this seems as incomprehensible and insurmountable to her as the eel’s ability to produce four million eggs. Afraid of being defined by the obligations she ought to fulfil, Queen Christina ultimately decides to decline a royal life, and chooses abdication.In Queen C, the audience follows Queen Christina as she descends deeper and deeper down the well. Queen Christina finds solace in the silent company of fishes, which causes much consternation and concern, and leads one of her suitors to ultimately proclaim that there is indeed “something fishy” about Queen Christina and her family.Yet Queen Christina’s obsession with sea creatures is but one of the absurdities included by playwright Ruohonen. The lack of a linear plot line in Queen C requires an active engagement from the audience, but Helne suitably solves this by letting the actors enter and exit swiftly and smoothly. The male suitors portrayed by Donagh Ruane and Aaron O’Farrell, each create humorous instances when they, with great accuracy and precise timing, playfully utter their lines. The frequent appearance of Queen Christina’s aging mother never fails to produce a comedic instance either, as actress Tara Fitzgerald skilfully and accurately depicts the mother’s dramatic tendencies and inclination to be fully consumed by her emotions.But the feistiness with which Ruohonen presumably wants her female characters to be depicted is successfully executed not only by the courageous performance of the female lead, Megan Carney, but also by actress Joanna Kelley who, playing Queen Christina’s only friend, seeks a direct confrontation with the audience by always uttering her lines with a distinct clarity and confidence. Carney’s exposition of the inner turmoil experienced by Queen Christina is remarkable; without a hint of hesitation, Carney shifts between a wide array of emotions. This highly believable performance grants actuality to the issues internally debated by Queen Christina, and which demonstrates that the philosophical puzzle of gender roles and identity is one that is both ancient and contemporary. The alternating traditional and modern music deployed by sound designer Matt Jones, and the interwoven traditional and contemporary modes of dance so skilfully performed by all actors, also help demonstrate that Queen Christina was neither the first nor the last female to consider that, according to her society, “a woman cannot be a genius”.Although the audience may never learn why exactly Queen Christina is fascinated with the creature that lies at the bottom of the well, and despite perhaps never being granted the ability to fully understand Queen Christina and her delusions, the strong and well-trained cast of Queen C nonetheless depict that the life story of Queen Christina is one worth telling.