it is confusing from the start, with James in and out of a trunk like a jack-in-a-box while speaking with an unconvincing wingeing baby voice.
But it is confusing from the start, with James in and out of a trunk like a jack-in-a-box while speaking with an unconvincing wingeing baby voice. As a dream sequence, the scene drags on too long and doesn’t add much to the fill-in of James II’s early years. James’ relationship with the half-mad mother in mourning Isabella Stewart (played brilliantly by Blythe Duff) is suitably unsettling, verging on gothic-horror which ultimately leads to some surprising treachery.
Yet Daniel Cahill’s Earl of Douglas is too Flashheart while Rosemary Boyle’s Mary is sadly ‘Ello, ‘Ello; both comic attributes at odds with their characters. Rothney’s performance in the last scene with William Douglas was sadly impaired by his very real football injury and gives it the feel of harmless pub banter rather than life-threatening argument.
The under-floor lighting, whilst adding to the atmosphere, did however become a strain on the eyes and the low background music an irritation to the ears; these felt like devices needed by a much less experienced playwright to convey atmosphere, rather than relying on a tight script, and made it feel more like a television fantasy drama on a pay-to-view channel. There’s even a minotaur wandering about this half-lit underworld. A couple of explosions from the hilt of the enormous sword embedded in the floor are confusing; perhaps they are essential to guarantee the audience’s attention and wakefulness at key points in the plot.
Melodramatic and overplayed as a whole, it is Rothney’s incredible perseverance to the very last after his injury and Duff’s twisted crone that save this production from being shallow.