by Liz Lochhead.

Royal Lyceum Theatre Grindlay Street EH3 9AX To 15 October
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat 28 Sept, 1, 5, 8 Oct 2.30pm.
Audio-described 29 Sept (+ Touch Tour 6.15pm), 1 Oct 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1pm).
BSL Signed 5 Oct 7.45pm.
Captioned 8 Oct 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0131 248 4848.

then Dundee Rep Theatre Tay Square DD1 1PB 19 October-5 November 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 2.30pm 27, 29 Oct, 3, 5 Nov.
TICKETS: 01382 223530.

Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 September.

A right royal mess of a production.
What a mess the Lyceum’s stately stage looks with director Tony Cownie letting designer Neil Murray loose. And how well it fits Liz Lochhead’s play, which brings a serious perspective to the Mary/Elizabeth story within a frame that treats it on a level with the playground-chant of its title.

As most things end in the dustbin of history, why not have a large skip on stage? As history is taught officially in schools, why not have a blackboard centre-stage with the title spelled out for a dramatic lesson? And as modern attitudes often emerge from old fights, why not have John Knox parading in Orange Order panoply? And as the furies of the past often drive the conflicts of today, an onstage car is no real anachronism.

Yet this is also history minus the trappings. Royal residences are reduced to the most basic of table and chairs. Nearest to luxury is a single bed (on Mary’s side of the stage naturally – there was none of that with England’s Virgin Queen).

Shauna Macdonald’s flame-haired, black-gowned Mary Queen of Scots, her complexion matching her hair, contrasts the low-cut brightness of Emily Winter’s paler Elizabeth I. Yet queenly pride disappears whenever either performer plays the other queen’s servant. Winter, particularly, visibly pinning her hair for royal scenes, then hanging it loose as a Scots attendant, marks the contrast of appearance and manner as an aspect equally of power and of performance.

Liam Brennan’s Knox loudly accommodates his views on women’s rule to Mary’s monarchy. Stephen McCole’s Bothwell is a powerful, bullish presence, contrasting Lewis Hart’s fretful young Darnley and Kevin Lennon’s Riccio.

But it’s the two queens whose fascinating contrast is developed by Lochhead, and made clear in Cownie’s often raucous, always considered production. Mary is the prisoner, but the powerful Elizabeth realises her sister-queen attracts the affection she has systematically repelled, or cannot inspire as she safeguards her power by independence from men.

Ann Louise Ross’s raven comments with wry knowingness, while Mary’s execution, played out in a modern playground where tribalism is perpetuated, is at once a playful and serious conclusion.

Corbie: Ann Louise Ross.
Mary: Shauna Macdonald.
Elizabeth: Emily Winter.
Bothwell: Stephen McCole.
Knox: Liam Brennan.
Riccio: Kevin Lennon.
Darnley: Lewis Hart.
Ensemble: Musician: Morna Young.

Director: Tony Cownie.
Designer/Costume: Neil Murray.
Lighting: Charles Balfour.
Sound Composer: Philip Pinksy
Co-composer: Morna Young.
Voice coach: Ros Steen.
Assistant director: Josh Armstrong.

2011-09-30 01:15:05

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