Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off" - February 2008

Now who says history can't be fun? I'm rather ashamed to admit just how limited my knowledge of Scottish history is - my recollection of history in school seems to jump rather quickly from Ancient Egypt to World War I (with a little bit of Industrial Revolution along the way). But I'm sure if it had been as enjoyable as what I saw tonight I'd have paid a lot more attention.

XLC and Langside College
have put together a hugely entertaining production of Liz Lochhead's play that takes a look at Scotland - then and now. Full of energy and physicality it fills the Circle Studio at the Citz while also allowing some quieter moments for its cast to show their skills.

And what a cast. Lorna Gold as Mary is marvelously regal while giving glimpses of the woman underneath. Regular readers will know that I can have a real issue with accents, but hers was a fantastic combination of French/Scots and is perfectly judged throughout- somewhat reminiscent of an Old Firm foreign footballer who's been in Glasgow just a little too long. Elaine Stirrat also produces an excellent performance as Elizabeth - giving her more than a little of our current Queen to great effect. But that's only half the story - Gold and Stirrat also double up as each other's lady-in-waiting with Stirrat in particular having some great moments. It could easily get horribly confusing but these two make it simple thanks to some more great character work.

Rosaria Mazzone as our narrator La Corbie keeps the show flowing and manages to fully engage the audience right from the start, performing some of the play's most complex dialogue and showing a beautiful singing voice. Richard Rankin is particularly comfortable as Bothwell while Alan Berkley and Kevin Mains as Knox and Darnley also get their moments to shine. Preston Clare, Colin Harris and Kevin Guthrie give very strong support - especially in the play-within-the-play. Special word also for Alan Craig's music which was really effective at creating a mood for the piece.

It isn't flawless (some of the dialogue gets lost in a couple of the ensemble scenes and the dream sequence didn't quite work for me) but it's certainly not far off it, and the energy and quality of the performances are more than enough to make up for the odd problem.

And I guess when it comes to problems things can't be that bad when the biggest problem of the night is that the cast didn't seem prepared to come back for a second curtain call and the audience just weren't for moving until they did. The poor usher seemed concerned she might have a riot on her hands until the cast finally returned after over a minute of continuous applause. So please guys - don't be so surprised if the audience want to show their appreciation. You certainly deserve it.

"Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off" runs at the Citizens until Saturday 1st March (including a Saturday matinee)