Elizabethan drama, literally
, 21 May 2007
This miniseries was directed by Coky Giedroyc, a veteran of television productions in Britain, including another royal-themed miniseries, 'William and Mary', in 2003. Giedroyc brings an interesting modern twist to the series - rather than filming things in majestic, sweeping camera pans with classical music as a background, and rather than having the dialogue (and acting) be in a stilted, falsely formal style, Giedroyc incorporates modern music with medieval and Celtic flavouring to it (both of which have experienced a renaissance of sorts in the past decade), and the situations are decidedly modern without being out of place in their own times.
This presents the life of Elizabeth from her young adulthood under Queen Mary, as a supposed participant in intrigues against the Catholic Queen, through to her death after serving decades on the throne of England as the Virgin Queen, the queen who never married. In fact, the miniseries plays a tantalising game with Elizabeth's virginity, showing her desires (as well as those around her) without ever giving up the game of 'was she or wasn't she?' Anne-Marie Duff plays the part of Elizabeth, and does a remarkably able job for such a complex figure. Duff won the Irish Television award and was nominated for the BAFTA award for best actress in a television drama in another series, 'Shameless', last year.
Duff is joined by Tom Hardy, who plays the role of Robert Dudley, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth. Dudley is also an extraordinarily complex role, as he played several sides in the political struggles during Elizabeth's early reign, and was part of a family well experienced in regal intrigue - Robert Dudley's family had tried to manage the reign of Elizabeth's brother Edward, engineer the accession of Lady Jane Grey (placing Guildford Dudley on the throne with her), and is sometimes referred to as 'the uncrowned kings of England'. In fact, perhaps the most stunning single scene in this miniseries is after Elizabeth has elevated Robert Dudley to the earldom of Leicester, and during her illness, he sits upon the throne as the protector of the realm. Hardy is well suited to this role, and plays it with skill.
The sets are appropriate to their time period, neither too ornate nor too medieval; the costumes also have a touch of modernity to them, but are still primarily of the period. The situations presented give good insight into the overall pattern of Elizabeth's reign and some of the principal concerns during that time period, although to compress such a long reign into such a short time frame as a four-hour miniseries by necessity means that the history has had to be selectively chosen. Elizabeth faced problems from without and within, many of which were far more complex and pressing than her marriage issue. In the end, Elizabeth made the right decision for the time, if not for the future.
This is a great production for television, and holds up well against other major productions featuring the Virgin Queen Elizabeth of a few years ago.
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