Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off is a comedic take on the life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland and her rivalry with her cousin Queen Elizabeth the first. You’ll see Scottish queens, Scottish accents and all performed in Scottish weather. Seriously, it’s cold, bring a blanket. They do hand out a few blankets and hot water bottles at the start, but better safe than sorry. Laura Hounsell gives a playful direction of Liz Lochead’s fast-paced dark comedy. Kirsten Millar sets the tone as the ‘corbie’ who is narrator of the play, acting as bridge between audience and production. Megan Lambie is similarly sensational as a jealous Elizabeth the first and Will Peppercorn’s comedic timing as the whimpering Darnley is inspired. Credit must be payed to the brilliant set and tech crew headed by Elissa Webb and Matthew Marsland, who create a simultaneously period-accurate yet modern set, perfectly matching the play’s modern take on historic events.
The atmosphere was gently immersive, the cast move around the space – particularly the corbie who can be behind you at any moment – surrounding the audience a bubble of activity. The two queens each play each other’s maids making the movement between scenes much more cohesive, and further portraying the distance but ever-present pressure on the relation. Due to inconsistencies in the cast, the pace of the production can slow at times. However, the more playful moments, such the dance of Salome or subtly lewd songs, bring the audience back in rhythm with the fast-moving events of the play. The play starts and ends with chaos; you enter to the honking of the accordion and leave with a cult-like chant. Overall the play is enjoyable and will guarantee a laugh. In a time when Scottish independence seems impending, the play is a topical, dark and funny exploration of the historic tension between the neighbouring nations.
Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off runs at Bedlam Theatre until 9 October 2019.