‘Astounding performances’: MARY STUART – West End

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by Laura KresslyLeave a Comment

Duke of York’s Theatre, London – until 31 March 2018
Guest reviewer: Kudzanayi Chiwawa

Heads or tails – with the flip of a coin, on this evening, Juliet Stevenson is Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart is portrayed by Lia Williams.

The play opens with urgency, the stakes are high and the rhythm throughout doesn’t let up. It’s exhilarating. Williams commands the stage like a beautiful beast, burdened by captivity. We know how history reads for these two women, but the battle waged on stage makes you wonder how will it end.

Stevenson and Williams gift astounding performances throughout, and are supported by an incredible cast – preying advisors, with their own ambitions, inhabit a world in which no one can be trusted but decisions have to be made. Neither queen makes it look easy.

Rudi Dharmalingam as Mortimer really stands out. An inspired fanatic, he leaves you with a particular kind of dread, a reminder that sometimes those you least expect can be the worst kind of monsters.

The play’s text is dense, but the actors weave it well and again, the pace gets us through. At times the physical intimacy seems awkward for the actors as if they’re trying too hard to remember the choreography, But it doesn’t necessarily take away from the overall experience.

The ending is gorgeous – colour suddenly bursts onto what has otherwise been a minimalist, stone set. Robert Icke has created an extraordinary retelling of a pivotal moment in British history, making it current and engaging, to an audience hundreds of years later.

Laura Kressly on RssLaura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.
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Laura Kressly on RssLaura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.

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