PROSTITUTES MARRY IN MAY: TWO QUEENS ONE NATION
by Miriam Cooper.
Waterloo East Theatre Brad Street SE1 8TG To 17 July 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 4pm.
Runs: 1hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7928 0060.
Review: Carole Woddis 22 June.
Another new venue, in the Waterloo area. You wouldn’t think there would be room for anything more.
But Waterloo East, secreted under the arches of Waterloo East station, turns out to be a very pleasant, well-appointed venue, seating between 50 and 80. Somebody has clearly taken trouble (it’s the brainchild of a former music-theatre pro who acts as PR/House Manager and Bar Manager all rolled into one) and the place reflects that care.
Shrewd programme-planning has already paid dividends with one-man performances from Peter Sheridan and Tom Crean. Miriam Cooper’s solo show on the time-honoured battle between Elizabeth I and her cousin Mary Queen of Scots proves an able follow-up.
Cooper, author as well as performer, writes that it was touring and playing Mary in Italian writer Dacia Maraini’s Mary Stuart around HM Prisons, and being asked to write a one-woman performance piece as part of the Elizabeth exhibition at Greenwich’s Maritime Museum, that inspired her to look at the choices that faced the two `Sister Queens’.
It’s a theme that has inspired a good few other people, too – German classic author Schiller amongst them. Cooper as writer packs in most of the well known lineaments of the story – the contrasting personalities of the one, fun-loving cousin, the other tied down by her sense of a public duty.
Inevitably there are short-cuts. We rather rush through Mary’s extended political threat, Scottish intrigues and trial. Where Cooper scores is in her capacity to switch personas and by adjusting her accent and demeanour conjure the young girls’ contrasting childhoods – Elizabeth’s early schooling in realpolitik during the reign of Mary Tudor; Mary’s more indulged experiences with the Guise family in France.
Using her major weapon – piercing eyes – and dressed in a simple black brocaded Elizabethan gown, Cooper is by turns dominant and skittish (and brilliant in an exchange with John Knox) in a script clearly drawing on original sources but also cleverly suggesting inner thoughts. The tragic outcome of two women, two Queens, related by family, and ensnared by History, lives again.
Performer: Miriam Cooper.
Director: Jonathan Kemp.
Lighting: Dave Beaumont.
Costume: Susan Coates
Assistant lighting: Claire Childs.
Prostitutes Marry in May: Two Queens One Nation is A Play On Words Theatre production. London premiere June 21, 2011 after tours of N Ireland, Scotland and the UK.