Carlos Acosta and Royal Ballet principal artist Zenaida 

Yanowsky are wonderful in Elizabeth at the Linbury Studio Theatre

Image ©ROH, 2016. Photographed by Andrej Uspenski

The celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death began, for 

dance and music lovers, with Will Tuckett’s remarkable Elizabeth, a ninety-minute 

chamber work first performed in 2013 in Greenwich, the birthplace of its illustrious 

subject.

A perfect fit for the contained space of the Linbury Studio Theatre, the 

production involves only two dancers—the Royal Ballet principal artist Zenaida 

Yanowsky and Carlos Acosta—who share the stage on equal terms with three 

speakers who occasionally sing or dance, the baritone David Kempster, and the 

cellist Raphael Wallfisch.

Economical of means but rich in theatrical effect, Elizabeth explores the joys 

and emotional torments the Tudor queen may have endured privately as well as the 

political power and implacable majesty she radiated, by necessity, in public.

The 

actors lead us into her mind, delivering words she wrote or spoke about herself and 

those written and spoken about her by her contemporaries, and Martin Yates’ 

evocative score borrows structure and certain melodies and harmonies from a 

host of Elizabethan composers.

Mr. Tuckett has previously probed the expressive possibilities of dance-

theatre through works as diverse as The Wind in the Willows, which transferred 

from the Linbury to the West End, and Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale. This time, he 

has surpassed his goal of “creating a physical representation of this character and 

those closest to her” and provided his dancers with nuanced dramatic roles any 

artist could envy.

Imperious, tender and playful, changeable as weather, Miss Yanowsky 

embodies Elizabeth as if born to rule the land herself, and Mr. Acosta, whose acting 

becomes more compelling the farther he moves from bravura dancing, inhabits 

Robert Dudley, the Duc d’Anjou, Sir Walter Raleigh and Robert Devereux in turn. His every gesture seems natural, every step takes its emotional color from the 

character who executes it; dance and theatre mesh seamlessly.

This theatre will close for refurbishment after Elizabeth’s final performance. 

With luck, the production will reappear before long to celebrate its subject and its 

choregrapher’s talent.

Elizabeth remains at the Linbury Studio Theatre until 17 January: 

www.roh.org.uk

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s coming season will include choreography of Shakespeare’s plays by Ashton, MacMillan, John Cranko, José Limón and David Bintley. See www.brb.org.uk/shakespeare

** For an even more minimal venture during the 400th anniversary year, consider Forced Entertainment’s Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare at the  Barbican, 1-6 March. www.barbican.org.uk