With the aid of a tea towel, a glass, and a stool, Sarah MacGillivray skilfully portrays a wide variety of characters in a modern re-telling of the story of Mary, Queen of Scots – sort of. Although this is initially a fairly straightforward reinvention of Mary’s story, with Elizabeth I as a pub landlady Liz, and Mary as a naive aspiring actress, Marie, who is new to London, it soon takes a darker turn. We first meet Liz, who has been trying to revitalise the pub she and her husband Barry have been running for thirty years with various themed evenings, from darts to their most popular offering, historical figure tribute nights. This is not only a clever way of incorporating the historical story the play echoes, but also proves a very entertaining premise, with a flirtatious John Lennon at one moment and Ghandi unable to perform due to a hip replacement the next.
An incredible one-woman performance.
Into this world steps Marie, newly arrived in London, who is mugged and ends up at the pub through sheer luck. After Liz jokingly suggests she work there and Marie takes her up on the offer, Marie also becomes involved in the pub’s history nights, all the while trying to pursue her acting destiny. She chooses to portray Mary, Queen of Scots, and as she becomes more invested in her character, and the history of her life and times, the events of the play take a darker turn. That isn’t to say the piece is without comedy, on the contrary, I found myself laughing throughout, even as things took a turn for the worse. This is not simply due to the clever nature of the script, or its comedy, but it is also due to MacGillivray’s delivery. This is an incredible one-woman performance, as MacGillivray portrays not only Liz and Marie, but the gruff Barry, unruly pub customers and a variety of other roles with ease, seamlessly switching between them with a change of accent or pose. Through her engaging portrayals we are able to see both sides of the story, Liz’s stresses and Marie’s frustrations, feeling sympathy for them both while also laughing at the situations they find themselves in, making the final twist all the more shocking.
This is a very clever reworking of a familiar story, though you don’t need to know your history to appreciate MacGillivray’s talent. A brilliant one-woman show in an intimate setting that I would highly recommend.