An outdoor performance in the gardens of Duddingston Kirk Manse, played out as darkness falls, Mary Stewart details the treachery and betrayal of the Scottish Nobility while feuding over land lost by the Catholic Church during the Reformation. Left to fester in captivity, Mary demonstrates unwavering ambition in still vying for the English crown.

Robert McLellan’s script delves into an intriguing period of history in ‘simple poetic Scots,’ but unfortunately this production is let down by poor aesthetic choices. It’s difficult to become absorbed in a performance where the title character parades around in period costume amongst strangely modern suit-clad men. The oddly warped sound is blasted through huge speakers – two actors periodically provide beautiful vocals, and it would have made more sense to have all the musical elements live.

The scenery certainly is lovely, but there’s little point in staging a production outside if it doesn’t suit the proceedings – this play, set as it is mostly in grand interiors, just does not make sense outdoors. The whole thing lacks coherence, and the aesthetic choices need thinking through if this were to be a total success.

With fine language and some worthy performances, if you are interested in the history and willing to overlook the creative weaknesses, then you may well enjoy this production.
Words: Hilary White

Mary Stewart, Duddingston Kirk Manse Gardens, Aug 6 – 24 (not 11, 12, 18, 19), 19:30

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