‘Mary Stuart’- final word

Well, it’s a double achievement! I just received note that the last post on ‘Disillusion’ was the 100th Blog post so I will have an extra glass of red wine tonight!

Anyway, as promised, the final of today’s gifts; ‘Mary Stuart’. I have made no secret about how important and significant that play was to me, and it will take a long time for the memories to fade, there was definitely a huge crash after the final curtain fell. But that is what these pages are for, to stir those memories and celebrate all we do. And if you are keen to keep the Mary fix going a little more or  just interested in finding out more about the history of the play, albeit through the lens of Channel 5, then be sure to check the documentary on later this evening:


I have aid before that i have been somewhat disappointed in my review attempts of late, my anonymous contributors have been very backward in coming forward either through time constraints or (dare I say it) not actually seeing certain shows. I am, therefore, glad that I have been able to reinstate this feature and hope that this will be the beginning of a regular critical chronicle of all that we do. My thanks to Steve Williams for taking time out to compose his thoughts, offered below:

‘Mary Stuart’ is a play of contrasting passions and beliefs and tells the story of two Queens at the height of their power in Tudor England. The eponymous Mary has been imprisoned by her cousin Elizabeth I who feared her power and influence, particularly as she was a favourite of the Pope and, as such, a challenge to the authority of a Protestant English Queen. The play concentrates on Mary’s desperate attempts to meet Elizabeth and convince her that Mary was no threat to Elizabeth throne (though history would indicate Elizabeth was perhaps right to be worried!).

Although the play, written by Friedrich Schiller and translated by Jeremy Sams, is mostly historically accurate the author took some liberties with history as, despite her pleadings, Mary never got to meet Elizabeth in person.It is unusual, and rather refreshing, to see such an all-female power struggle played out before our eyes. The two principal characters have to drive the play forward and every element of the action hangs on the actresses ability to convince us they really are the two Queens.

Kay Isom, as Mary, was excellent – both compelling to watch and full of passionate intensity. As the imprisoned Queen in a foreign country knowing that she was facing her final few days, Kay showed us Mary’s fear anger and uncertainty over her demands. A great performance.

For this reviewer though the star of the show was Gillian Challenger as Queen Elizabeth I. This was a dramatic tour-de-force and we were utterly convinced that we really were watching Elizabeth as she fought both her conscience and her determination to do what was right for her country. Bravo. Both these actresses should be applauded for their magnificent performances.

Helen Roffey as Hanna, Mary’s nurse showed us the devotion and love that Mary inspired in her followers. Her determination to remain strong whilst her mistress was facing execution was very moving.

As Sir Amias Paulet, Mary’s gaoler, John Mackintosh portrayed a man full of honour and conviction determined to do his duty whilst protecting his charge. Lord Burleigh, played by Tim Pearce, is the man who would see Mary executed at all costs and he and Paulet were constantly at loggerheads. Both of the actors worked well against each other and gave
confident and assured performances.

There were, sadly, too many actors in this production to name them all individually but the whole cast provided, on the whole, believable characterisation. Of particular note was Joan Evans as Lady Talbot, Elizabeth’s adviser and, arguably, conscience.

Adam Benwell, as Mortimer, was a little flat to start with but grew into his performance and he and Nat McCloskey, as Lord Dudley, worked well together and convinced us that both queens could quite easily be blinded
by their charms and ignore their duplicity.

The other feature of note in this production were the magnificent costumes. A lot of time, effort and research had gone into ensuring an authentic look and feel to the costumes (though I was a little disappointed with the French ambassador’s hat!). Well done Pat Williams, Annie Norris and Kerstin Beard  for their obvious hard work.

Matchbox Theatre produce a lot of their shows in the round and are well used to the challenges that this presents. It was a touch disappointing therefore that, with such experience, there were some lighting issues. On occasions actors were standing dark shadow delivering some important speeches and it is essential that their faces can be clearly seen and
their emotions read which is nigh on impossible when they’re standing in thick shadow. I will admit that this is perhaps a minor niggle but, from an audience point of view, it is distracting and has a tendency to
stretch our suspension of disbelief.

‘Mary Stuart’ directed by Mike Savill at Matchbox Theatre was a great evening’s entertainment and one that will live with me for a long time. Well done to everyone involved.

2 thoughts on “‘Mary Stuart’- final word

  1. Great stuff Mike – and congratulations on your 100th blog!!! The pictures look amazing and so much better played as a slideshow. Good to have an honest, valuable and constructive review from Steve – many thanks to him.

    Cheers, as you drink your glass of red! – and love, Annie x
    Sent from my iPad


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