I was nervous going into this show. Based on previous Nonsenseroom productions of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Canterville Ghost" it was the only production that I had been prepared to strongly recommend to others before seeing it, so there was some credibility at stake here. I needn't have worried...
Nonsenseroom have done well to obtain the world premiere of this work by Douglas Maxwell, and as well as these performances at the stunning Rosslyn Chapel they are also taking it for a short run in London. The story focuses on a short period in the life of James II of Scotland as he deals with a potential rebellion, the machinations of his wife and mother, and mental illness.
Scott Hoatson produces a wonderfully deep performance as James avoiding the temptation of playing him like a manic Jim Carrey and making him more of a tortured soul. Lois Creasy is excellent as his wife Queen Mary effectively conveying her mixed feelings for her husband, while Charles Donnelly provides perfect comic relief as Bower. As the King's mother, Queen Joan, Lori McLean was suitably manipulative while keeping the character three dimensional, and Neil Smith brought a believable stage presence to the charismatic Douglas.
The tale is tightly plotted with a few twists and turns along the way as alliances switch, and the fact that it's written in verse works well here (and it's something that often irritates me). The scene where James and Douglas swap roles works particularly well and the wide ranging swordfight is impressively staged.
It's a pacy and incredibly energetic piece, particularly the second act and as an audience member you'll feel thoroughly involved - both physically and mentally. The humour has a light touch which is well handled by the cast but the core of the play is an emotional one.
The Production is top class in its own right, but we'd recommend trying to see one of the 'Gala' performances which include a post-show Q&A and tour of the chapel along with a delicious light buffet and couple of glasses of wine. These performances make it an real experience and the cast/creative team were happy to chat away with the audience during the buffet.
"The Ballad of James II" runs until the 25th with Gala Performances on the 18th and 25th. Ticket availability is limited for some dates on the Fringe website but tickets may still be available directly.
The show then moves to the Greenwich Theatre, London from 4th to 8th September.
And Nonsenseroom have already announced their version of "It's A Wonderful Life" will be returning to Rosslyn Chapel this Christmas.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Posted by Statler at 9:50 am