REVIEW: Jubilee at Royal Exchange Theatre

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With visuals that almost put their finger on you since you enter the room,  Jubilee at Royal Exchange Theatre was an amalgam of madness, collapse and physical and psychological violence.


In an era where the establishment is not a trusted concept anymore, the words and monologues are a “punk” way of saying what’s wrong is good and what’s good is wrong sometimes in society.

The Royal Exchange overview describes the show as being “for young punks, old punks, and anyone who’s ever wanted to set the world on fire”.

The original film versus the play

The original “Jubilee” is the film directed by Derek Jarman released in 1978. In the film, Queen Elizabeth I is brought by an angel in the contemporary London, where Queen Elizabeth II is dead, killed in a mugging. The play went on stage at 40 years after the film, as “it felt the perfect length of time to look back over that intervening period and see what happened to its culture”, says Chris Goode, the director.

“Jubilee always felt to me like a stage play in disguise,” said Chris Goode, director.

“It is full of theatrical moments and weird kind of surreal performances. Manchester, of course, has an amazing punk history on its own, and that’s the reason why Jubilee, although it’s a London film, feels very, sort of sympathetic.

“Also, this is about Royal Exchange itself, as a place of public speaking. In the last 40 years, a lot of things happened to what it means to be a queer person. It’s definitely very rude, it’s taking no prisoners.”

Moreover, the actors controlled the audience by interacting with them, asking questions which were not rhetorical and making the public part of their play. The room had front seats on the stage, few coaches where the viewers were standing and sometimes the actors would do it too.

Audience’s reactions to Jubilee play

“The walls were all sprayed with messages, everything was punk. The music was loud, the actors were screaming and saying everything from the bottom of their hearts. The clothes they wore carried a strong message, the whole was like a firework show made out of feminist issues”, said Roxana, an art student who came to see the play at her teacher’s suggestion.

Elements such as nudity, rough language, glam clothes, character names such as “Mad”, “Kid”, “Angel”, added life to the play. Toyah Willcox, who was in the film’s cast at the time, led the play’s cast.

Jubilee at Royal Exchange Theatre

  • Jubilee at Royal Exchange Theatre runs until 18 November.
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