Writer: Friedrich Schiller
Adaptor: Mark Leipacher & Daniel Millar
Director: Mark Leipacher
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
The Public Reviews Rating:
Mark Leipacher and Daniel Millar’s latest adaptation for The Faction Theatre Company is Schiller’s Mary Stuart, a powerful and entertaining play chronicling the politically and emotionally charged last days of Mary Queen of Scots. A piece which accentuates the historical with a generous dollop of theatrical licence, Schiller script seamlessly blends fictitious characters and encounters into the well-known story to great dramatic effect. In this superb version, The Faction have retained this essence whilst well and truly putting their own stamp on it, working as they do as a true ensemble utilising minimal set and props to create the world of the play. The fact that this play revolves around two powerful women adds a certain something to the political machinations of its characters and their relationships. Kate Sawyer’s enigmatic Elizabeth fears showing womanly weakness while Derval Mellett’s passionate Mary demands to know how a council of men may be regarded as her peers, showing that despite their high status both feel judged by men. In spite of their similarities and commonalities their ill-fated meeting deteriorates into a slanging match between the “virgin” and the “whore”, and both are ultimately betrayed by men they have relied upon.
Tom Radford is thoroughly convincing as the ardent Mortimer, while Gareth Fordred beautifully treads the line between the smarmy and the genuine as Leicester. Other noteworthy performances come from Richard Delaney as Burleigh and Lachlan McCall as Paulet, while Shai Matheson’s Aubespine is enjoyable to the point of hilarity. Sawyer is truly mesmeric as the Virgin Queen, balancing her regal poise and political savvy with emotionally charged outbursts that engender sympathy for her situation, despite her apparent coldness. Likewise Mellett runs the gamut of emotions throughout the play, with each moment feeling sincere and committed.
The only aspect of this production that prevented it being a five-star knock-out was the staging and costuming of the piece. Despite a subtly stylised opening with Mary and Hanna sporting the brightly coloured skeletons of a period dress, this excellent idea was not followed through in the rest of the attire. Juxtaposing these with Lords dressed in suits with overcoats attached over one arm as modern day capes jarred, particularly as they continually slipped and encumbered the actors. There was also an overuse of projections which added little, and some incongruous movements sections depicting a party and hunt that felt out of step with a production that was already fully absorbing due to the fantastic script and performances. At their best The Faction have proved less can be more, and perhaps that ethos should also be applied to this production so that it retains its flow and the focus is not drawn from the magnificent action on stage.
Runs until 22nd SeptemberMary Stuart - New Diorama, London,
Tags: Daniel Millar, Derval Mellett, Friedrich Schiller, Gareth Fordred, Kate Sawyer, Lachlan McCall, Mark Leipacher, Mary Queen Of Scots, Mary Stuart, New Diorama Theatre, Rachel Valentine-Smith, Richard Delaney, Shai Matheson, The Faction Theatre Company, Tom Radford