QEIII: Black Betty

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

06/05/2023 - 03/06/2023

Production Details

Writer: David Geary
Director: Alex Wilson
Choreographer: Andrew Patterson

Centrepoint Theatre

Shaken, Stirred and Out of His Depth
Plots. Poison. Passion. A magical, tragical tale from the Queen’s MI5 bodyguard who deals with troublesome Royals all day, his long-suffering wife by night, and a mysterious Shakespearean serial killer lurking in the shadows.

A funny, fast-paced farce, mystery thriller, and alternative history all rolled into one. Scribed by Manawatū-born and Bruce Mason Playwriting award winner David Geary, this royal spy caper will be a perfect tonic this winter.

David Geary is a playwright well-known to Palmerston North audiences – The Farm, A Shaggy Dog Story Lovelocks dream Run and Pack of Girls have all played on the Centrepoint stage as well as major theatres around the Country.

David’s plays have always been equal parts playful and provocative. QEIII: Black Betty is no different. Merging various tropes from spy capers and serial killer movies, David examines the relevancy of the monarchy in the twenty-first century all within a playfully high concept world of plots, poison and passion.
It is worth noting that the play was programmed well before the Queen’s passing last year, while the play’s world premiere coinciding with the coronation is a mere coincidence, but one that adds to the relevancy of the play.

QEIII is an alternative history, examining how the late Queen would look back on her legacy in her final years. When faced with such storied predecessors as her namesake Elizabeth I and Victoria who lead the nation to being global superpowers, her own legacy is one faced with struggle, compromise and a Britain whose importance on the global stage is in retreat. Comedically, what would the Queen do if she had another chance to secure her legacy? Without her family seemingly trying to thwart her at every turn or ineffectual politicians standing in her way, could the “Queen” achieve something greater?

Wednesday • 6.30PM
Thursday • 7.30PM
Friday • 7.30PM
Saturday • 7.30PM
Sunday • 4PM

Opening Night • Saturday 6 May
Closing Night • Saturday 3 June

Bookings at: https://www.centrepoint.co.nz/qeiii-black-betty

Location: Centrepoint Theatre, Palmerston North

Kathleen Burns: QEII/QEIII
Simon Leary: Terry
Andrew Paterson: Shakespeare/Hazel/Lint

Director Alex Wilson
Production Manager Marshall Rankin
Lighting Designer Rachel Lenart
Set Construction Harvey Taylor
Set/AV Designer Grace Newton
Stage Manager/Technical Operator Belle Harrison
Production Assistant Zahnia Gerrard
Intimacy Co-ordinator Rachel Lenart

Marshall Rankin
Zahnia Gerrard
Grace Newton
Alyssa Jalen
Matt Kilsby-Halliday
Belle Harrison

Theatre ,

100 minutes (not including a 15 minute interval)

Fun, fresh-feeling, bonkers and very funny

Review by Alexandra Bellad-Ellis 07th May 2023

Terry has found himself, after a distinguished career in the secret service, with his toughest job yet. To guard and watch over Queen Elizabeth the Second. To keep her safe from not only external threats, but from her family as well. The Queen, who seems to be going a little mad in her old age, claims she is going to reinvent her legacy. To make England great again, and find out all the juicy gossip her government won’t tell her.

This is where the play begins and what follows is a chaotic flurry of goings on. Heads of state are poisoned, members of the royal family keep having accidents. And someone is murdering people using Shakespeare’s plays as inspiration. The Queen seems mixed up in it all and therefore so is Terry. Will Terry be able to diffuse the situation in time? Will he remain loyal to his Queen or to his country?

Written by Manawatu born writer and Bruce Mason Playwright award winner David Geary, QEIII Black Betty draws on various tropes including spy thrillers and serial killer movies. The result is a chaotic thriller with many Shakespeare references for the audience to identify along the way.

The actors do an amazing job with this piece. It is incredibly, almost unbelievably fast-paced with actors changing constantly, both between characters and within the personality of each character.

Andrew Paterson does the majority of the character changes, playing all the secondary characters. Firstly Hazel, Terry’s wife, who has a love hate relationship with her husband and, perhaps, ulterior motives. Then Lint, head of security, and Terry’s boss. He is not sure who’s side Terry is on, or if he is on a side at all. Andrew also pays Shakespeare in all his murderous glory. Andrew does a great job at switching between characters. With each being different and fully formed. You always know which character you are watching. A great performance all round.

Simon Leary is brilliant as the long-suffering secret agent Terry (with a Cameo as Prince Charles): a perfect foil for Kathleen Burns’ Queen. He can switch from being lovable to dangerous, without breaking a sweat. Kathleen Burns, QEII/QEIII, is glorious in her portrayal of the monarch. Funny, clever and cunning. She knows just how to win her audience (or bodyguard) over. Her performance has a deep physicality to it, changing throughout the play to fit the scene or mood. 

The set is a wonderful pop art homage, made by Harvey Taylor and Grace Newton, with two full moons (or gun sights) which prove pivotal to the telling of the story. Events that happen offstage are presented to the audience through live action projections which fit perfectly with the silly, yet clever feel of the play. A pile of TVs in the centre of the stage also add to the atmosphere, and help set different ‘stages’ or the passing of time. The AV design work for this show was done by Grace Newton. The operational part of the set is simple: a few boxes, a bench and a table. The actors make ultimate use of these to keep up with the pace of the script. The result is seamless and very clever.

The production is slick and technically challenging. Operator Belle Harrison keeps up with the fast pace of the actors, flicking between lighting changes, projections, sound and physical props. The lighting, designed by Rachel Lenart, is deceptively simple, but adds so much to the overall feel of the production.

The director, Alex Wilson, has done a great job of organising the chaos, creating a fun, fresh-feeling world for the play. This play is bonkers, a lot of fun, very funny. You never quite know where you stand or what is happening but it’s very enjoyable nonetheless. Best to just sit back and enjoy the show. 


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