The Single Lady tells the tragic tale of a Tudor Love Triangle in platform trainers and tiaras. This, accompanied by a soundtrack of smooth RB and Mariah-Esque riffs, made for a fun and well-meaning show. Lauren Brewer and Will Geraint Drake’s upbeat musical attempts to retell the story of one of England’s greatest queens. Along the way, it also reduces her to having the personality of a loved-up reality TV contestant. It’s toxic; there’s turmoil and two-stepping all around. Frankly the plot felt more like Princess Diaries than epic warrior queen – but we’re here for a fun time, not a straight-laced history play.
The show follows Queen Elizabeth’s (Lucie Fletcher) tumultuous love life following the unexpected/totally sus demise of Robert Dudley’s (Olly Stanton) wife. The young Queen deals with the dilemma of thinking with her head or her heart as she navigates the responsibilities of ruling the country. She is left to face reality as Dudley marries her lady in waiting, Lettice Knolly (Vivienne Shaw), which leaves her, in her eyes, without a best friend or a boyfriend. Sounds sucky… If you’re in a 2000’s chick flick. This Gen-Z reimagining of the Golden Queen seems to be missing the whole point of the job.
Undeniably, the book is your average girl loves a boy, the girl can’t be with the boy, the boy falls in love with her bestie, and the girl whines about it and makes her bestie the villain. Problematic all around. Until you remember, we’re dealing with attitudes from the 1500s. This is not the 21st century, and there’s evidence that she actually was that bad. Perhaps the modern retelling makes the audience less sympathetic towards what seems frankly petty and, at times, misogynistic and reductionist. The Whore/Madonna trope is smattered throughout the play, which, Tudor social rules aside, could have been avoided.
But if we ignore the plot/book issues, it’s a great musical. The songs are infectious earworms, the choreography was cute, and the cast’s performances were fabulous. Lucie Fletcher carries the show with ease, a real leading lady in the making. She has a great belt and diction, making her rap sections audible and coherent. Something that makes other musicals who choose to use this genre fall at the first hurdle. Special mention to the gorgeous tone of Vivienne Shaw as Lettice. She did a great job of winning the audience to see her in a sympathetic light. Especially when the writing, at times, was determined to demonise her character and then resolve it with a quick hug and makeup ending.
The Single Lady is a bubbly, enthusiastic love letter signed, sealed and delivered straight to the creators of Six. But it’s a real example of; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Although it has made me question the most pressing issue at hand… How many more pop musicals about Tudors will we get before we get a Now That’s What I Call… The 1500s?
Recommended Drink: 2-4-1 Bubblegum Gin Spritz served in Tudor-ish chalices. Except you forgot about your other friend, who happens to be the Queen of England. Boo, you whore.
Showings of The Single Lady have now concluded for this EdFringe. Keep up with the company on Social Media for future performances.