The Eleventh Trip of Lilibet W. - Reviewed by Stanford Reynolds | Regional News Connecting Wellington

The Eleventh Trip of Lilibet W.

Presented by: Continuum Theatre Company

Written by: James Ladanyi

Directed by: James Ladanyi

Whisky & Wood, 28th Feb 2024

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

Part of this year’s New Zealand Fringe Festival, this play imagines a younger version of Queen Elizabeth II (Aimée Sullivan) walking into a quiet Wellington bookshop, a year after the real monarch’s death. Conversing with the bookstore clerk (Tara Canton), she slowly pieces together what might have brought her here, grappling with questions about her legacy – both as an individual and as the physical embodiment of the Crown.

Canton and Sullivan perform the two parts in the play expertly. To begin with, the environment and circumstances are unclear, but as The Keeper, Canton is effortlessly relaxed. She enters, complacently eating an apple, and writes in a journal throughout the show. Her dialogue is always natural and free. Sullivan, to contrast, uncannily captures the regal voice and mannerisms of the Queen, prim and controlled even in this strange environment. The costumes (decided by the actors themselves) also work well to differentiate the characters’ personalities, with The Keeper wearing a baggy shirt and pants with Crocs, while the young Queen is in a floral dress and pearls.

The audience is arranged in a circle, a desk at one side of the space and a comfy armchair at the other, with piles of books filling the stage in between (set design by producer, writer, and director James Ladanyi). Other books are hung by string from the ceiling, evoking a sense of wonder that supports the surreal story. Both performers use the space well, always showing us both sides of the story and projecting their voices across the stage as their discussion becomes more heated. This makes the back-and-forth almost like a tennis match.

At first, I question the need for a 10-minute interval in a 60-minute show, but it makes sense as the Queen is left on the stage by herself, reading and reflecting, giving more pace and impetus for conflict in the second act.

The Eleventh Trip of Lilibet W. is an ultimately hopeful play. It is a vivid examination of a woman we all knew about, bringing a modern, analytical perspective and inviting us to consider our own stories and legacies.

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