Thursday, July 25, 2013

MARY STUART reigns mightily at Stratford

It is no wonder that the Stratford Festival’s MARY STUART has been extended three times due to sold out houses.  This production, under the meticulous director, Antoni Cimolino, is as perfect as dramatic theatre can get.  The acting is superb, the pacing spot on, the emotional levels well honed, the visualizations clear.  In other words, this is theatre as it should be!

Peter Oswald’s new version of Friedrich Schiller’s MARY STUART centers on a fictional meeting between Mary, the deposed Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, Queen of England.  The intrigue centers on who is the “real” queen, which extends into a mockery of justice, religious bigotry, jealousy and court intrigue.  Though the meeting never really took place, the queens were, indeed, bitter rivals and enemies.

From a historical perspective, Mary and Elizabeth share Tudor blood, are cousins, and rivals for the British throne.  Mary, a Catholic, was in fact, accused of plotting her husband’s murder, and unwisely fled to Protestant England.  Her real crime, however, was her desire to be Queen of England. Elizabeth’s continued reluctance to have Mary killed is centered on a realization that with the Scots many friends and allies, especially in France, a dead Mary might well be worse than an imprisoned Mary.  After a 19 years of imprisonment Mary is finally put to death for treason.

Mary and Elizabeth are quite different as people.  Mary got married and begat a son, a potential heir to the throne.  Elizabeth, often called the “virgin queen,” dedicated her life to her throne, putting aside her person life.

Schiller plays a little loose with history.  The script develops strong sympathy for Mary through the playwright’s altering some facts, creating people who were never part of the intrigue, and actions unsupported by any written record.  But this is historification theatre and not a treatise on historical fact.  These alterations help make for a play which may be more dramatic than the real tale.

Lucy Peacock takes on the cloak of Mary and becomes that martyred monarch.  This is a well-developed characterization with an eye on consistent emotional and physical fidelity.  It is performance at its finest.

Seana McKenna is Peacock’s equal, developing a flawless portrayal of Elizabeth.  She does not act Elizabeth, McKenna becomes Elizabeth.

The rest of the cast is superb.   Patricia Collins (Hanna Kennedy), Ian Lake, (Mortimer), Brian Dennehy (Earl of Shrewsbury), and Geraint Wyn Davies (Earl of Leicester), among others, create believable personages.

Beautiful costumes, an efficient set, well selected music, and effective lighting all add to the creation of a marvelous and compelling production.

Capsule judgement:  Stratford’s MARY STUART is classical theatre at its finest.  Seeing this production is an experience which no theatre-goer should miss out on!  Bravo to the director, cast and technical staff!

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTTS is in an extended run through October 11, 2013 at the Stratford Festival.  Tickets are limited due to strong demand.  For information call or go to: 800-567-1600 or go on-line to