Friedrich Schiller wrote Mary Stuart, his first-class political thriller, in 1800. Robert Icke’s urgent modern dress production at the Almeida Theatre, on a circular revolving stage, feels very modern. The drama is totally gripping. Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams alternate as Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots; it doesn’t matter which you see. The actresses are equally impressive in both roles, emphasising the similarities rather than the differences: two sides of the same coin, one Catholic, the other Protestant.
The most famous scene, a face-to-face confrontation, works a treat. There is another memorable scene, this one based on fact, when Elizabeth hands her secretary a warrant for Mary’s execution and is deliberately ambiguous about whether he should keep it or deliver it immediately. Either way his neck is on the block. There are strong performances throughout. Strongly recommended.
She Loves Me, the Broadway musical at Menier Chocolate Factory, is set in pre-war Budapest and is about two shy, anonymous pen pals, who have never met and, unbeknown, are actually working in the same fancy perfume shop. The couple (played by two likeable performers, Scarlett Strallen and Mark Umbers) hate each other so much that everyone on stage, and everyone in the audience, knows they must love each other.
Some people may find it all just a bit too sweet and sentimental. But the sweetness and sentimentality are an essential part of the show’s appeal. Jerry Block’s lilting music charms and Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics are literate and witty.
Everybody is in striped pyjamas, including the stage hands, in Sally Cookson’s production of Peter Pan at the National Theatre, which takes a highly original approach to a familiar story. Never Never Land is a rubbish-filled, graffiti-ridden children’s adventure playground. Captain Hook is played by a woman, Anna Francolini. Interestingly, James Barrie had wanted Dorothy Baird to play Hook at the premiere in 1904. Had Baird done so (and not Gerald du Maurier), would the play have been so popular? Had the play’s original subtitle, “The Boy Who Hated Mothers”, been used, would parents have continued to take their children every year?
Barrie disliked the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens, saying it did not show the devil in Peter. What would Barrie have made of actor Paul Hilton’s Peter, an arrested grown-up (no little boy, he) in a bottle-green suit? The play is about growing up and growing old. The five Llewelyn Davies children, who inspired Peter, all died young. It was Barrie who never grew up.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection