Last night I went to see "Mary Stuart" at the Apollo. It was a transfer from the Donmar Theatre, so I knew that I was in for a treat. The show was written in the 18th Century, but a modern playwright got ahold of it and "shaped" it a bit, cutting some of the dialogue and updating others. The play, as you might have guessed, centers around the queens Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I. For those of you who don't know, Elizabeth had imprisoned her coz in England when Mary Stuart (then the queen of Scotland) came seeking asylum. Mary was locked up for almost twenty years--the main problem being, Elizabeth couldn't release her as Mary would have to raise an army and "revenge" her imprisonment, but she couldn't kill her either, as Mary was a queen in her own right. Such a problem.
So the play deals with the internal struggle and the political turmoil of the time period, but it was wonderfully acted and I hardly noticed when two and a half hours went by. The set was very sparse--black bricks, a chair here, a table there, the setting mostly illuminated by dialogue. The men in the show, noblemen "politicians" all, wore modern business suits, while the two queens wore 16th century dress. Mary's was a very faithful brown dress, while Elizabeth's was a more elaborate dress made of Chinese silk. I thought it was an interesting choice, since it underscored the idea that the politicians and advisors vary very little from generation to generation, but the two queens were very much of the sixteenth century--and they may be monarchs, but they're still women.
The woman who played Mary Stuart, Janet McTeer was a HUGE woman--not fat, but tall and well-fed, shall we say. She was an AMAZING presence onstage, towering imperiously over many of the men. (except for the man who played the Earl of Leicester--he was about eight feet tall and three inches wide) The woman who played Elizabeth, Harriet Walter, I recognised from the bitchy sister-in-law in "Sense and Sensibility" but that was totally overshadowed by her brilliant characterisation. Her last great scene where she decides to sign Mary's death warrant was incredible. Her monologue was delivered to Mary, asking for advice, but in the end she finally had to listen to herself. Watching her come to her conclusion was as heart-breaking as it was thrilling.
So, I'd give the play five stars. My favourite scene was the imagined one where the two queens meet--Mary has been allowed to go outside and frolic in the rain, and Elizabeth "happens" to stop at the castle while out hunting. Mary is soaking wet in her tatty brown dress, but she ends up coming out on top after pleading for her freedom and, when she doesn't recieve it, denouncing the queen of England, Britain and any God who could put her on the throne. I couldn't believe they would make it rain at the beginning of Act 2, but they did--and had about a dozen umbrellas onstage!--and the water evaporated before too long. Damn stage lights. :)
That was my exciting night last night. Today it is raining, so I spent most of the day in my room, finishing up on homework. I recieved a box from home with a lot of clothes but also some delicious chocolate-chip cookies. Thanks, mom and dad! :) Funnily enough, they also sent me some Stash chai tea, so now my cookies taste like...chai tea chocolate chip cookies. I gave some away to my flatmates, including one who was like, "ooh, are these proper American cookies then?" As opposed to British biscuits? Yes.
Check out www.seemarystuart.com for more about the play.