by Friedrich von Schiller
New Diorama 15-16 Triton Street Regents Place NW1 3BF In rep to 18 February 2012.
3pm 21 Jan, 11, 18 Feb.
7.30pm 19, 20, 28 Jan, 2, 3, 17 Feb.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7383 9034.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 January.
Thrilling Schiller from The Faction.
This uncredited version of Schiller’s 1800 drama of personal and political values is slimmed-down, brisk and theatrically exciting. With two audience rows either side in the New Diorama’s black studio, events push themselves in and out of doors that sometimes remain open, giving apparent freedom, or providing glimpses into corridors suggesting the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth I metaphorically imprisoned amidst her power. Or the doors are locked in an intrigue-filled world.
Elizabeth receives diplomatic praise and marriage offers, but it’s Mary who inspires love and devotion. There’s urgency in the attempts to rescue her, and the political calculations to prevent them. Meanwhile, Elizabeth dithers, unwilling to order her sister’s execution, while aware Mary is a focus for rebellion.
From the opening where a single red light establishes the blood theme, before white lights start snapping brusquely on and off, there’s fast-paced excitement in a style incorporating projected biographical details, introducing characters in half-lit images alongside the action, and a blood-red copy of the incriminating letter that leads to the climax.
Derval Mellett shows Mary’s passion, but it’s Kate Sawyer’s Elizabeth who delves into the piercing agonies of lived-in experience. Mary’s gallows are built high onstage (they’re usually heard offstage) with packing cases and a metal ladder noisily clanging. As she ascends this, Elizabeth sits opposite her on an executive’s throne. She’s funked the crucial decision, over Mary’s execution. Which brings one of the few disappointments here.
It may be modernity justifies sex overruling class, with Mary near-raped by one of her lovers, but to replace Schiller’s civil servant commoner Davidson with Kent – new to court, but still among the nobility – as the one left carrying the can for the carrying out of Mary’s execution weakens the way blame is passed down.
Presumably, Davison became Kent as a last-act character doesn’t fit the ensemble pattern. More happily, seeing Jonny McPherson’s agonised Kent after his Wodehouse-like Aguecheek in Twelfth Night is a bonus of the repertory programme. This is a strong ensemble, with Gareth Fordred’s conniving Leicester and Richard Delaney’s spymaster Burleigh adding to the production’s impact.
Talbot: Andrew Chevalier.
Melvil: Cary Crankson.
Burleigh: Richard Delaney.
Leicester: Gareth Fordred.
Kennedy: Leonie Hill.
Aubespine: Shai Matheson.
Paulet: Lachlan McCall.
Kent: Jonny McPherson.
Mary: Derval Mellett.
Mortimer: Tom Radford.
Elizabeth: Kate Sawyer.
Director: Mark Leipacher.
Lighting: Martin Dewar.
Associate director: Rachel Valentine Smith.
Associate composer: Tom Whitelaw.