IN THE Red corner, Elizabeth of England. In the Blue corner, her cousin and fellow ruler Mary, Queen of Scots.
This modern Scottish Classic by Liz Lochhead, first performed in 1987, explores the loves, rivalry, and emotional contortions of these two queens who rule “wan green island”. One is a ruthless, absolute monarch, the other a beleaguered woman ill-prepared to rule an unfamiliar country. None of this is helped by the presence of John Knox, brilliantly played by Liam Brennan.
When Mary gives birth to a son – who would have a strong claim to the throne of both Scotland and England – the stage is set for trouble. And trouble there is.
The cast attacks this turbulent and intricate story with a turbo-charged energy that hardly lets up for a second, yet they still manage to introduce splashes of humour. Their portrayal of everything from a dream sequence to an Orange Walk is delivered with a pinpoint accuracy that pulls the audience into a strange world and keeps them there.
No period costumes and stilted language here. Rather, it is a roller-coaster of a play that the cast members are more than able to deliver.
Although all pull their weight, Queen Mary (Shauna Macdonald) delivers an astonishing performance – in a French accent with Scottish idiom – that never flags for a second. Opposite, Queen Elizabeth (Emily Winter) is more than up to the job. Not only do they create a disconcerting friction without ever actually meeting, but both also play each other’s maid and confidante, managing this transformation with little more than a hairclip and a change of accent. It’s a remarkable achievement.
The cast proves they can hold the attention of the packed audience. Though the second act dips a little, despite the pyrotechnics, this is more than made up for with their portrayal of squabbling – and menacing – children. And an iconic freeze-frame moment in the last second of the show draws breath from the audience.
If you want to experience an energetic and unique slant on an old story, delivered by a talented cast, then don’t miss it.
Run ends October 15