Monte Cristo Room, Auckland

29/03/2007 - 31/03/2007

Production Details

Composed by Clive Cockburn
Libretto by Michael Hall

Sound and Lights by

Boadicea is dramatic musical theatre that looks and sounds like a rock concert and may be a start to bridging the gap between rock music and musical theatre. In writing Boadicea, Clive Cockburn was not trying to please any particular audience. It is often intense but the music is guided by the drama rather than an attempt to follow genres. “This is the most exciting band I’ve ever played in,” says Cockburn, “and Georgia Duder is wonderful in the role.”

Boadicea is perfect for festivals and late night shows. It is an exciting piece of rock music drama. The libretto is by Michael Hall from Kent who died just three weeks ago so will never see his work performed.

Written as a stream of consciousness that changes emotions in a heartbeat, Boadicea is an emotional roller coaster. One moment she is fearful and apprehensive and the next, full of loathing for the tax collector or the horse that killed her King Prasutagus, the next sarcastic and pompous as she imitates the Romans. She is distraught when her daughters are raped by the tax collector’s men then becomes gentle and caring for her men, their wives, their babes and their dogs as they sleep before battle day – and so the story unravels.

Boadicea was Queen of the Iceni. It tells of her last hours in 61 A.D. (the Iceni lived where Norfolk is today). The opera starts in the early hours of the morning of the final battle between The Romans and Boadicea’s army and ends with her, defeated and on the run and realizing she has no option but suicide. It began with the death of her husband when the Romans attempted extortion claiming her late husband owed them for a non-existent loan. When she refused to pay, her daughters were raped and she was flogged in front of her own people. The resulting Boadicea uprising caused the deaths of approximately 10% of the population of England and Wales. It is a classic revenge story, which we know about only through Roman sources, Dio Cassius and Tacitus. No British version exists. – Michael Hall

Boadicea - Georgia Duder

Keyboards - Clive Cockburn
Guitar - Rob Galley
Bass - Neil Hannan
Drums - Paul Dunningham

Theatre , Musical , Solo ,

45 mins, no interval

Urgent reassessment needed

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 02nd Apr 2007

By way of brief historical background: the legendary tale of Boadicea is an epic bloody story of one woman’s revenge against tyrants. Boadicea was Queen of the Iceni, where Norfolk is today. Just under 2000 years ago, her huge but untrained armies battled long and hard against the Romans, after she refused their demands to repay a non-existent loan to her late husband, King Prasutagus. During the rampage that ensued in 61 A.D., her daughters were raped and she was flogged in front of her own people. Defeated and on the run, Boadicea committed suicide. Amazingly there are Roman, but no British accounts of Boadicea’s vengeance, though historians estimate that the uprising caused the deaths of approximately 10% of the population of England and Wales.

Clive Cockburn, a professional screen composer, with decades of experience and several NZ Film and Television Awards to his name, has brought Boadicea’s story to the stage.

Armed with this wealth of historical material, where the central character has the allure and power of Cleopatra, combined with the will and motivation of Scotland’s William Wallace, the dramatic result could have been incredible.

Sadly, Cockburn’s Boadicea – The Celtic Warrior Queen, which has been oddly described in promotional material as a "rock opera in one act", "ground breaking New Zealand musical theatre", "rock music drama" and "like a rock concert and may be a start to bridging the gap between rock music and musical theatre", is little more than a continuous 45 minute rock song that completely misses the mark.

Vital ingredients are missing. There is no director, no set, very little dynamic lighting, no supporting roles, no chorus, and while Boadicea herself is in make up, wig and costume, the four piece band around her, fully lit and in full view on the small stage, are in everyday attire.

Visuals aside, the overwhelming problem is that the work badly needs an experienced director to give dynamic action, pause, pace and emotion, to complement and enhance the groundwork laid by Cockburn’s score.

In it’s current form, it lacks the dramatic cohesion required to make it palatable and understandable, for an audience expecting to be drawn into, and care about, Boadicea’s story.

Georgia Duder sings the role of Boadicea. Possessing a strong Amazonian frame, and an impressive rock voice to match, she does valiantly, throwing her all into the role. However, she is hung out to dry in this format, without the outside eye of a director to guide her through Boadicea’s diverse and complicated emotions. Intense rock songs, one after the other – an onslaught with no let-up from start to finish – can only portray so much. The audience is not given the opportunity to connect with, or fully appreciate, the highs and lows of her tortured journey.

In terms of the libretto (by Michael Hall from Kent, who died just three weeks ago and so will never see his work performed), I found it extremely difficult to gauge where Boadicea was at most of the time. Was this song reflective or was she singing in the present? Cockburn confesses he imagines Boadicea in a kind of "Stream of consciousness" state throughout, where she "changes emotions in a heartbeat", with her journey being "an emotional roller coaster". From this audience member’s perspective, that approach was vague and confusing. About half way through the work, when two audience members were walking out, I wanted to join them, as I really didn’t know what was going on.

However, Boadicea – the Celtic Warrior Queen, starts with promise, as all on stage, in particular Duder, cope admirably with Cockburn’s full and demanding score.

The band is made up of extremely accomplished musicians, with Cockburn on keyboards, Rob Galley on Guitar, Neil Hannan on Bass and Paul Dunningham on drums. The Overture is full of big rock phrases that if spread sparingly throughout a more conventional theatre format, would work well.

When Duder emerges, she begins well, with restrained emotion, but before too long, and far too often during the next 45 minutes, the melody line sends Duder to the top of her range, and it disintegrates into ragged screaming, monotonous on the ear and off key towards the end, as Duder, vocally exhausted, completes her singing marathon.

I appreciate Cockburn’s passion and commitment, (he’s even produced a CD), but he urgently needs to reassess the staging of Boadicea – the Celtic Warrior Queen from the audience’s perspective.
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