We meet landlady Liz as she hosts another Historical Night. It’s in-between darts and karaoke on her pub’s weekly events calendar and has been an unexpected success. Elsewhere, unlucky Marie is new to London. She wants to follow her acting dreams but within minutes has already been mugged and is without a phone or wallet. Stumbling upon the pub, Liz and Marie meet for the first time not knowing that this moment will change their lives forever.
A witty and interesting production that unfortunately doesn’t quite fulfil its potential
This is Fringe theatre at its most authentic: stripped back, inventive and surprising. Very loosely inspired by the Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I story, it’s a witty and interesting production that unfortunately doesn’t quite fulfil its potential. Sarah MacGillivray gives a sterling performance in this one-woman show, managing to captivate the audience for the whole hour. However, the character transitions were occasionally jarring. Although Marie and Liz were clearly meant to mirror each other, they sometimes seemed too similar in almost every aspect, with their main distinguishing feature being the change of accent. Perhaps my favourite part was the host of amusing characters that wander in out of the pub; their costumes and demeanours so vividly described that you can easily picture them in all their glory. There are the Suffragettes who like to rap battle, a less than intelligent Einstein and a dog dressed as, you guessed it, Lassie. An honourable mention also goes to landlord Barry, who likes to wear too-tight trousers in Prince style and gel his hair as a bejewelled Elvis.
The script is fast-paced and witty. There were plenty of laughs and gasps and the performance managed to genuinely portray a love of history. When Marie reacts to seeing Mary Queen of Scots’ final letter for the first time, her excitement is honest and contagious. However, Marie's story needed fleshing out further to make the final denouement credible. Yes, the ending was exquisitely dramatic and authentically Elizabethan in scope. However, Marie's descent was so rapid that believability was sacrificed in favour of unpredictability and shock factor. This perhaps, was because there were a few loose threads that were never answered. For example, Marie calls her mum at the beginning of the play but never seems to contact her again. With the events that follow, I think this was an odd avenue to close.
Overall, House of Mirth are a theatre company with great promise. Marie is an ambitious and entertaining show and their new venture, Chihuahua, which premieres at the Edinburgh Fringe this year is certainly one to watch out for.