One Man and His Masks - Boudicca: Britain's Dreaming

British folklore is packed with some of the most iconic figures anywhere in the world. King Arthur and his knights, Robin Hood, George and the dragon. Ours is a land of fighters and characters, in history as well as in story, but there are few as famous as Boudicca, warrior queen of the Iceni. To take this fierce Celtic matriarch and present her as the proto-punk is a concept which makes perfect sense. Spiked red hair, ripped and tattered clothing and a passionate resistance to authority (in this case, the Romans). It all seems to fit.Which is why it’s puzzling that this show just doesn’t work.I think the root of the problem is that, while we can see what Gareth Calway is trying to do, we can’t see why he’s doing it. If he’s trying to make the story more relevant to young people then why not get a younger performer to do it? It feels like he’s aiming to be John Cooper Clark but succeeding in coming off like an earnest, ‘hip’ history teacher. That being the case the show begins to seem less like a show in its own right and more like a mediocre exercise in self-publicity.There are a few interesting touches buried in here. The masks, for example, are a striking visual aspect and, though underused, when Calway does interact with them it adds an extra dimension. But these twinkles of originality are outnumbered by naff touches like Calway’s tabor solos of popular punk hits, lyrics slightly changed to spell out the history lessons.Boudicca: Britain’s Dreaming is a noble concept but I’m afraid it just isn’t realised. For a story of the battle against the establishment, it’s too conventional. For a history lesson, it’s too confusing. For poetry, it just doesn’t sing.

Reviews by Tom King

Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★
CanadaHub @ King's Hall in association with Summerhall

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

★★★★
Assembly George Square Gardens

Jess Robinson: No Filter

★★★★

The Blurb

Boudicca's revolt against the Romans as a punk rock tour! Bardic storytelling, her story vs history. A clash of movement, battle poetry, primitive masks and protest with Celtic lyricism and drum.