Review Round Up: Mary, Hampstead Theatre

We take a look at what critics have had to say about Roxana Silbert’s production of Rona Munro’s play about Mary Queen of Scots.

© Manuel Harlan

WhatsOnStage: ** “Munro’s writing is always beautifully pitched and poised. Yet here, somehow, it feels devoid of passion. The play is just three people talking rather slowly in a room. In Ashley Martin Davis’s skilful design, the room looks lovely, with its panelled walls and Matt Haskin’s beautifully modulated lighting casting the players in the rich hues of a period painting. But Roxana Silbert’s direction is calm to the point of somnolence; there’s nothing to leaven the pace until an ill-judged intervention right at the close.”

The Guardian: *** “Cleanly directed by Roxana Silbert, this is a debate play with little action. It feels static at the start but builds intrigue and has a thrilling series of quick-fire exchanges although the pace does not sustain itself. Matt Haskins’s lighting design uses expressive plays of shadow and light to crank up suspense and Ashley Martin-Davis’s set has a bold starkness.”

Evening Standard: ** “Roxana Silbert’s production is static, talky and monotonous, less than the sum of its parts. Munro writes in an intriguing, impressionistic blend of modern and historic Scots vernacular. There are more juicy contemporary parallels – about fake news, the making of national myths, and the inaction of good men – than you can shake a sceptre at.”

British Theatre.com: ***It is a good theme,  and the writing is taut. But it is a long slow burn, static, undramatic until the last third. The audience was tautly silent though,  shocked. That I suppose was the point. The denouement is sudden and dramatic: suddenly a chorus – credited in the programme – reminds us that beyond tight arguments in small rooms there is confused angry popular feeling and a country to save.”

The Telegraph: ** “It may well be that, when watched as part of the cycle, Mary, a chamber piece for three principal actors, sharpens the saga to a satisfying point. It usefully accentuates parallels with women today, especially post MeToo, in its discussion of the queen’s sexual vulnerability and its argument over the degree to which she was coerced, or in control, at crucial moments. Viewed on its own, though, while showcasing Munro’s writerly flair, and presented with imposing precision and wood-panelled splendour by Roxana Silbert, it feels too suffocatingly claustrophobic in its narrow line of inquiry.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “Though it forms part of a series, we can look at it as a strong work in its own terms. It showcases an area of history that is little understood and much overlaid with competing narratives. By illustrating how those narratives and perceptions are created and the strands involved, it not only educates but challenges us to simultaneously critically assess what we think we’re learning.”

The Stage: **** “Fascinating reframing of the downfall of Mary, Queen of Scots continues Rona Munro’s epic history cycle.”

The Times: *** “Douglas Henshall, star of the TV series Shetland, is superb as the haughty, dyspeptic courtier forced to defend himself and his queen under interrogation.”

Lost in Theatreland: *** “It may be that this script could sing in a different setting and with different direction. Roxana Silbert’s stagecraft is minimal, light, and somewhat constrained at first by the narrowness of the corridor. But the performances, tech, and lighting are very polished, much like the wood of the large wall that frames the action. In fact, here I can praise its cleverly concealed doors, and the smoothness with which it opened up for the second act. Perhaps if it hadn’t hidden from view the potential for a more involving drama, we could have been let into something much more powerful.”

London Theatre Reviews: *** “The direction of Roxana Silbert is simple and effective, the three characters continuously move and shift across the stage as if stranded on a precarious raft, trying to balance their personal, political and religious interests. It is an ambitious work that courageously asks the audience its full intellectual attention, more or less successfully using history as a tool to make us look at the very complex forces at work in our times.”

For more information and to book tickets visit: https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2022/mary/

 

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