4 reasons to catch May Queen at Belgrade Theatre
After a successful run last summer, this powerful play by local writer Frankie Meredith returns to the Belgrade Theatre 25 June - 2 July. Here's why you should book tickets pronto.
Potent and simply affecting, Frankie Meredith’s play May Queen centres around 16-year-old Leigh, who heads up Coventry’s 2022 May Day parade in what should be the best day of her life. But, things soon take a dark turn. Leigh must face up to what has happened to her, digging deep within her past and her city’s history in the process. Intrigued? Here’s four reasons to catch it.
It’s a one-woman show
The experience of watching a skilled actor effortlessly and single-handedly hold a crowd’s attention never grows old, and such is the case with May Queen. It’s not always true: some single-actor shows can strain at the edges, but this adds to the captivating effect of one done well. Leigh is played by West-Midlands-born Yasmin Dawes, and she shines brilliantly. Guiding her audience through an at-times quite painful story, Dawes is unfailing and evocative: both funny and deeply moving.
It’s set in Coventry
I’m gonna say it: I’m sick of things being set in London! It’s properly refreshing to be able to watch cutting-edge contemporary theatre written, set, and performed in the Midlands. A love for Coventry is indeed central to the play: writer Frankie Meredith grew up in the city, and May Queen was originally called Cofa’s Tree, which is the historical name for Coventry. The setting is vivid despite pared-back staging, and it adds an interesting dynamic as Leigh’s childhood home transforms into a place of discomfort.
Girl power! May Queen is a full on Triple-F production, meaning it has a female director (Balisha Karra), writer (Frankie Meredith), and lead character (Yasmin Dawes). It’s obviously important to support women-led shows in the male-dominated world of theatre, but it also provides a refreshing quality to the storytelling. Some of the themes that May Queen tackles are quite uncomfortable (on consent and abuse), but it tackles them in an engaged, female-centric way. Writer Frankie Meredith was also conscious of championing stories of teenage girls as worthy of attention — a section of society too often pigeonholed as frivolous and silly. More shows like May Queen, please!
The location is perfect for dinner and a show
Ah, the best bit of any cultural excursion: eating. Firstly, it’s worth noting Belgrade Theatre’s lovely new upstairs bar Nineteen 58, boasting hanging foliage and mood lighting — perfect for pre-show G&Ts. And for a full-blown dinner, the theatre is ideally placed, bang in the centre of Coventry. For familiar crowd pleasers there’s a Cosy Club or The Botanist (pictured) within easy walking distance, but for something really special I love Jinseon Korean BBQ on Fairfax Street. If you haven’t done Korean BBQ before, you cook your own food on a barbecue in the middle of the table; it’s really cool. Make sure to order the Dirty KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) and honey butter chips, they’ll honestly change your life. And, of course, set you up for some cracking theatre.