Mary Queen of Scots Got her Head Chopped Off at the King’s Head
After having fallen for many years into oblivion, Liz Lochhead’s Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off is seeing new light at the King’s Head Theatre. Staged by Theatre Up Close and directed by Robin Norton-Hale, the play aims to give an insight into the private lives of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I, and to explore the relationship between them.
Elizabeth’s half-sister steals the scene. When the performance starts we meet La Corbie, a carrion crow who acts at the same time as a narrator and as an unheard conscience for the Scottish queen. Mary is at the centre of it all, showing her frailties as a woman trying to maintain the balance between her religious beliefs and her desires, between her political responsibilities and her personal designs – a victim, yet nonetheless a strong figure who stands up for herself and her subjects with pride.
On the other side of the country and a world of ideologies is her cousin Elizabeth. Similarly torn by the difficult decisions she has to make but ruthless and more cynical, she spins intrigues to win Mary over only to discover the price too late.
Among the other characters are lovers becoming husbands, fortune-tellers becoming friends, attendants playing the confessor and suggesting the next move: all contribute to the well-known fate of each of the two queens, and make history.
In a learned game of changing spotlights, Mary and Elizabeth are confronted, their minds and souls investigated and exposed. The play has some awkward moments of messy choreography and it is mainly spoken in Scots (therefore hard to comprehend for those unfamiliar with the dialect), but it grows in intensity becoming more and more physical with many scenes leaving little to imagination. Most of the actors deliver passionate performances that shake the audience, whether by making them burst with laughter or feel the painful emotions related to the saddest and cruellest events. The actors’ skill speaking in different languages, their vocal renditions when singing, and their interpretation of the characters are what really make Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off invaluable.
Photos: Christopher Tribble
Mary Queen of Scots Got her Head Chopped Off is at the King’s Head Theatre until 22nd June 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for Mary Queen of Scots Got her Head Chopped Off here: