This feels like a moment; I haven’t been able to do a best of theatre list since 2019 because of ‘you know what’. It’s been huge fun revisiting the plays I’ve seen – nearly 50. And while that total is down on pre-pandemic levels, it was still tricky to narrow down my choices, but here goes.
For 400 years the reputation of Mary, Queen of Scots, has been battled over: she has been called victim and whore, murderess and heroine, flighty and heroic. Romance flowers in drama and opera: she was a young mother, beautiful, imprisoned, finally executed by her cousin Elizabeth I. But in this static but powerful 90-minutes, in which the Queen herself is offstage except for two glimpses, Rona Munro concentrates on the period before her forced abdication in 1567.
Rona Munro’s latest piece, Mary, treads similar ground to historical trilogy The James Plays in its examination of Mary Queen of Scots and the series of fateful activities that led to her being deposed in favour of her infant son in 1567. This superbly written 90-minute drama passes in the blink of an eye but the fate of a country, a Queen and a scandal-ridden woman are brilliantly contained within.