There’s something truly exhilarating about the sight of a top-flight national ensemble, in full voice, confronting a great text that wrestles with the character and history of the nation itself.
. . . takes the breath away with the fearless theatricality of its cabaret style, and the sheer force of the glittering poetic links it forges between the fraught and unresolved politics of Scotland in the 16th century, and tensions over gender and religion that still haunt our society today.
. . . so brilliantly vivid, intense and intelligent that it becomes irresistible.
Kenny Miller’s design is a triumph, sandwiching the action between giant transparent crosses of St George and St Andrew in floor and ceiling, and dressing the two queens and the chorus, La Corbie, in fabulous postmodern reinterpretations of glamorous period dress, with perhaps the most breathtakingly stylish shoes ever seen on a Scottish stage.
The Scotsman * * * * *
In Alison Peebles’s glamorous in-the-round production for the National Theatre of Scotland, this is a story governed not only by the demands of realpolitik, but by the passions of two women whose libidos have the power to shape history.
In England, we have Angela Darcy’s Elizabeth, all high bosom and explosive red hair; a woman as gifted in the art of strategy as she is prone to jealousy. . .
In Scotland, Jo Freer’s tall and elegant Mary carries herself with an Audrey Hepburn-like grace, choosing her husband for expediency and her companions for pleasure.
The Guardian * * * *
Lochhead’s [play] is unambiguously and resonatingly Scottish. As the torrid sectarian wound of our national history is reopened by the conclusion to another green-and-blue football season, the play speaks to Scotland’s past and present with a welcome creative wit.
John Knox (played with granite determination and hideous swagger by Lewis Howden) walks the tightrope between religious idealist and misogynistic fundamentalist. Jo Freer’s Franco-Scottish Queen Mary [is] a smart combination of misplaced aristocratic arrogance, human frailty and powerful eroticism.
. . . a taut, sparky production.
A strong cast featuring Lewis Howden as a fearsomely self-righteous John Knox and the gravel-voiced Joyce Falconer in the crucial role of La Corbie . . . John Kielty, in his long leather coat, makes for a roaring boy of a Bothwell, feckless but fiercely loyal.
There are some extraordinarily effective images, such as the black paper darts that suddenly start to rain down on poor Davey Riccio moments before his murder.
The Times * * *
This is a glamorous show, with Joyce Falconer a Gothic, black-frocked presence . . . and Angela Darcy’s Elizabeth and Jo Freer’s Mary both overtly sexy queens.
a radical re-imagining of a classic . . . worth travelling to see.
A bright, sensuous and flamboyant staging of a play that has achieved the status of a classic within the author’s own lifetime.
Makes the Thrilla in Manila look like a playground hair-pulling episode.
Big Issue Scotland