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Posts Tagged ‘Rudi Dharmalingam’

There’s a real frisson at the beginning of this play, as a coin is spun to determine which of the two leading ladies, in similar modern dress and hairstyles, will play Mary Stuart and which will play Elizabeth I. The rest of the cast then bow to the chosen Queen Elizabeth I and the play begins. We’ve had role-swapping before, like Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein at the NT, though as far as I know none determined quite like this (assuming that it is).

Schiller’s 1800 play revolves around a meeting between the two Queens at Fotheringay, which never actually took place. Mary is imprisoned and requests a meeting to plead her case for release. It’s a tense psychological and emotional encounter, though it results in nothing. Elizabeth is advised that releasing Mary would be a great threat. From here, it evolves into a thriller about the proposed execution of Mary and who is responsible. This adaptation / production takes a more feminist stance, implying that both women were being manipulated by the men around them; an entirely plausible and fascinating theory.

Director Robert Icke has written this adaptation, which is some 50 minutes longer than the Donmar’s eleven years ago. The problem with it is that it takes way too long, around eighty minutes, to get to the pivotal meeting and I found this first part ever so slow, and frankly a bit dull. When we do get to Fotheringay, it’s a riveting ride through to a brilliant ending, but it risks losing the audience before it gets there. You also have to swallow some implausibilities, like the story unfolding in just twenty-four hours, despite the fact it’s locations are 80 miles apart, the brazen and, it seemed to me, unlikely sexual advances Mortimer makes to Mary and Leicester to Elizabeth and the existence of a female ordained catholic in the sixteenth century, or now come to think of it. I do wish he’d got someone to help with or edit the adaptation.

The performances, though, are stunning. On the night I went, Juliet Stevenson was a passionate, defiant Mary and Lia Williams a charismatic, assertive Elizabeth; both brilliant. There’s terrific support from John Light as the duplicitous Leicester, Rudi Dharmalingam as Mortimer, a character Schiller invented, besotted with Mary, Vincent Franklin as the devious Burleigh and Alan Williams in the more sympathetic role of Talbot. It’s set on a round platform that sometimes revolves, with additional side seating to make it almost in-the-round. There’s another of Robert Icke’s trademark soundscapes, this time including tunes by Laura Marling no less. It’s in modern dress, and I found the simplicity of Hildegard Bechtler’s design enabled you to concentrate on the story and the dialogue, well, when it took off.

A fascinating piece of historical fiction that is beautifully staged and performed, but about 45 minutes too long.

 

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David Greig’s play explores the psychology of mass killings, and the case of Norway’s Anders Breivik in particular. Set in a village hall where a community choir are rehearsing, it moves from monologue to song to interview, touching the surface of the issues but exploring none in any depth. As much as I admire the intention and the ambition, it didn’t sit comfortably with me.

Claire is the choir leader, who ‘interviews’ ‘the boy’ and others who knew him or were associated with him. The same actor plays all of these. We start with a piece from the choir, who return to sing more and some of whom are involved in the story. It’s at times moving, occasionally seems exploitative, intrusive or voyeuristic (which given it’s a play is probably a compliment) and sometimes puzzling. For me, it didn’t provide enough insight to justify it.

Neve McIntosh plays Claire movingly and Rudi Dharmalingam plays ‘the boy’ and others with great conviction. The choir changes regularly and we had office choirs Shellissimo (guess where they work!) and The Lip Smackers (don’t!) who after a nervous start got into their stride.

I am a big fan of Greig and so wanted to admire this more than I did. It seems to me that the subject either requires a lot more depth or should be left alone.

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