French Institute in Scotland, Online
On demand, Aug 2021
As a citizen of Scotland it is hard not to feel wonder when the name Queen Mary Stuart is mentioned. I tuned into a pivotal performance of 2021 Fringe‘s ‘Mary Stuart’. It was an adaptation of a 1833 play by Friedrich Schiller about the last days of the revered queen. She was imprisoned for murdering her husband Darnley but was in fact incarcerated because of her claim to the English throne at the time held by Queen Elizabeth 1.
Summer Tide Company wrote an original dialogue that hit the heights of this story and offered a great many insights into what great theatre is. The; what I’ll call ‘backstage play’ (in an amazing looking tunnel with old bricks) where they were somewhere deep in a castle or somewhere underground.
The two actresses, Marie Colombe Lobrichon had the role of Elizabeth and Pauline Prevost Mary. They met in this place in France with the American Pauline, an enthusiastic personality and the French Marie more composed who seemed to lock horns immediately especially in their eye dialogue. All at first in a; who plays who? dilemma.
Every second of this scene, and all that came afterwards was overflowing with written brilliance and utmost performance. It was a short movie of their rehearsals for a play about Mary and Elizabeth. But it was a play for its own qualities. Mary’s tale is a tough one, it would be performed in French but at this time Pauline could not muster any great capacity for the language.
We wondered how she had come to win the role of Mary to be performed in French. And as the spring was set for the plot to traverse she thought she was there for the part of Elizabeth. They seemed to attack each other verbally, like jousting words with body language of attitude and contempt, especially from Marie who at this point was still playing her great actor self.
We were already enthralled by the scene when suddenly the spirit of Mary and Elizabeth entered their awareness. The depth and bravado that came out was a golden performance in itself. For Mary began to speak fluent French! And so they conversed as Mary and Elizabeth for long well flowing dialogues of fierce confrontation.
The focus took genius positions from movie like camera work. Making close ups, blurring the distance, their rehearsing had become their performance fit as if to set the theatre on fire, unrelentingly. It was Mary and Queen Elizabeth; who so famously had words to wind up as a smartly acute echo in history that resounded in the play.
I was following the fast and fluent French that poured out of Pauline and Marie with a rapid interest and though my French is very limited I managed to still follow the play and its poignant moments, none less than Mary’s death. Pauline returned out of this trance like experience with no knowledge of anything that had happened. But Marie seemed to come out of it bewildered and a little scared.
It was compelling, attention grabbing sustainably and wickedly well acted from a witnessing of the long suffering Story of Mary Queen of Scots vs. Queen Elizabeth 1. In honour of these stern times it was acted with a stern and marvellously unravelling of the way of these human interactions brought about by the most sincere clause of their legacy as subject not observer.
Inclusive in the dialogue the revered worlds of these two actresses were thrown into chaos by the performance tasks in front of them. It could be seen as a ghost story of the dead being raised. But the powerful intentions went way beyond anything small or irreverent, with capacity in full focus and hearts were brought to the fore.
Quality, ideal, anger, rage, murder rang with the words the two were helping each other complete. The bell also rang in the scary circumstance where Marie would end up cowering in disbelief, with a look of strength as the Queen. It was a back stage play that took its moments from the highest theatre imaginable.
She took white paste and put on the face of doubt; staring and glaring right into the camera with fearful accuracy. In French she held the moment that showed every inner feeling of disgust and contempt for things, seeming to damn the play and Mary with it.
It was an astounding take on acting itself and a deep look into the real potentials of theatre. All shot with a loud and beautiful and scary but faithful enactment between two powerful characters. We were taken to the heart of a story known to so many and that went down as a special time in British but also human history.
The spirit that emerged from being called upon was a resplendent part of the plot. I hope more comes of this.