Bloody Mary

Timelines blur as Queen Mary Tudor stands reading the Financial Times in this capable performance that draws parallels between the purging reign of Bloody Mary and the policies of the Conservative party. Unfortunately, it fails to really go anywhere.

A disappointing sense of never truly developing a message.

Mary swans around on stage in beautiful period costume. We hear about her rise to the throne, the damage to the country caused by Blair – sorry – Edward and his heretical protestant views. However, Mary is here, with her cleansing fire and austerity to mother England back to strength. The use of today’s political rhetoric in Mary’s speech is a fascinating dynamic, that is easy to miss for those not aware of it. It is difficult to pull out which dialogue came from which era, except for the buzzword that is austerity.

The solo performer playing Mary has a strong grasp on her regal demeanour, and the poetic delivery of the faux Tudor speech, cutting a convincing figure. It is a shame that there was little variation in the delivery of the lines, it was lacking in levels or changes in tone to match the changes in subject. The same strong regal delivery adorns speech about beheadings, burnings, the state of England, and the death of Mary’s miscarried child.

The script has lots of ideas to explore; the mysticism and dangerous social nostalgia we have for the glorious past, where everything is better than now, the way extremism has always been around, and the way people in power have a tendency to bend the rules for themselves, as Mary says “rules are not for everyone”. However, the piece never really does any more than touch on these, raising them as points and then moving on, leaving a disappointing sense of never truly developing a message. 

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The Blurb

'Political (and religious) extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the world's ills and a conviction that there are identifiable villains' (John W Gardner). Rape, burnings, beheadings and religious persecution run rife as England's first queen regnant, newly reunited with a politicized Pope, tries to untangle service to God from service to the self. Written and directed by award-winning playwright Bernie C Byrnes. Speeches made by the current conservative government are woven through a text that explores damnation and salvation through the eyes of Mary Tudor.

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