For a woman born in the 17th century, it sure could be a drag being Queen, and so it was that Queen Christina of Sweden became the first high profile drag king, ruling the land with a male appetite for clothes, women and power.

The controversial historical figure is the focus of the Belvoir Downstairs’ final play for 2008, Queen C.

Written by Finnish playwright Laura Ruohonen, the play creates an allegory around the details of Christina’s life, which director Kate Gaul is hoping will not only appeal to Australian audiences but inspire many to learn more about her life.

She’s quite an icon for feminists and gay and lesbian artists, and she’s just a really intriguing historical figure that people keep writing books about, Gaul told Sydney Star Observer.

The biggest challenge though, is that if this play was performed in Europe people would already know who the character was and they would bring their own knowledge of history to the production. The big challenge that we have is that not anyone I know, at least, really knows about her.

For those who haven’t been brushing up on their Nordic history, or were never introduced to the wonder that was Greta Garbo’s take on the role, Christina’s reputation as a rebel makes modern royal scandals look tame in comparison.

A disappointment because of her sex, Christina was raised as a boy before taking to the throne at the tender age of six. Given the rare opportunity to access education, Christina was tutored by none other than the great philosopher Descartes, who instilled a sense of liberty which was to stay with her as she defied the norms to live and love as she wanted.

I suppose what makes the play work for people who don’t know who she is is that this is not a play about history. It’s a play that has a historical context, but there’s nothing -˜ye olde worlde’ about it. It has a context that people can relate to. 

The play is surreal. There is a certain sense of irreverence and the darker themes of identity are explored as if we are flipping through a children’s pop-up book, a cautious Gaul said without disclosing too much about why this play has mystified European audiences over several runs.

info: Queen C plays at the Belvoir Downstairs Theatre, November 28 – December 21. Tickets: $29/$23. Bookings: 9699 3444

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