Body of woman, heart of a king - and the legs too
From Glenda Jackson to Cate Blanchett, many an actress has enjoyed the challenge of playing the Virgin Queen. So why not a dancer – and a male one at that? Inspired by the varied portrayals of Queen Elizabeth I, Tom Sapsford has created Regina, a dance theatre piece about the late monarch’s last days.
Performing at Tramway as part of Glasgay!, Sapsford says he is ‘very excited’ about visiting the Scottish city again, having played there on many occasions. A dancer with the Royal Ballet for years, followed by spells with Random Dance and Michael Clark Company, Sapsford has combined performance with an impressive choreographic career.
But, at the age of 34, Sapsford is almost ready to say goodbye to dance. Couldn’t we squeeze a few more years out of this compelling dancer? ‘I’d rather you didn’t,’ he laughs. ‘I feel like I’ve been squeezed somewhat already. I’ve been in the process of retiring for the past three years – I feel a bit like Cher, on a world tour that never ends.’
It’s appropriate, therefore, that Sapsford has chosen a dying queen to be his swansong. What first attracted him to Elizabeth? ‘The same things that attract everyone else – the power of her,’ explains Sapsford. ‘But also the different portraits and representations of her. It’s very difficult to see what lies behind them, they almost become like an armour. So in the piece I try to create her through a collage, using lots of video projection and text.’
To that end, Sapsford has shaved off his hair, covered himself in white paint and donned a huge costume onto which images are projected – effectively turning himself into a piece of dynamic scenery. ‘Whenever I work with technology I always try to make it part of the piece,’ he says. ‘So it’s completely intrinsic to the work, rather than an add-on.’
Tramway, Glasgow, Fri 23 & Sat 24 Oct