Performed in the
stately Edinburgh Elim church,
Visually the performance is striking
Its marketing as a ‘fast-paced journey’ gave me the impression that it was to be a rapid-fire Cliff Notes-style performance, but this was not the case. I’m glad of this, because what I saw was indeed fast-paced in the sense that it had no saggy bits, while still allowing space for emotion.
This is no staid period costume-drama. Taking a sharp script from R.A Steven, director Jo Rush has done a clever job opting for a more symbolic performance style. Using the architecture of the church to define the performance space, there are three isolated areas and a large central space in which most of the action takes place. I was at first worried we would not be able to hear the actors in the grand space, but pleasingly this was not an issue at all. The four male actors function as a chorus as we travel the span of Queen Mary’s life, which is both effective in providing exposition and also in establishing a rhythm. There were a few lost lines though, which broke the rhythm and our focus momentarily.
Raghad Chaar gives a strong performance as Mary, Queen of Scots. Andreas Munoz is a passionate Darnley and the two have a good chemistry. I also enjoyed Paul Atlas’ portrayal of Lord Bothwell and his transformation from loyal supporter to manipulator.
Visually the performance is striking, with the men in black and white and Mary (and Elizabeth, who spends most of her time perched in the distance on her own plinth) dressed in red. This is supported by choreography by Paul Atlas. The binding of red ribbons in a wedding scene was very effective. Lighting design by David Cunningham is sympathetic and helps shift action along with fluid lighting changes but no blackouts between scenes, which I feel would have slowed the show down.
The combination of these assets makes Mary the Last Farewell an inventive take on a timeless story of power, betrayal and love.