We closed our visit to Stratford, and our week in Ontario, with Schiller’s Mary Stuart. I’d never seen the play before though it is very familiar. It was assigned reading in German class during my freshman year in college. It think it was probably only the 4th or 5th play I’d ever read. I also knew the plot from having seen Donizetti’s opera Maria Stuarda. The libretto is adapted from Schiller’s play.
The play tells the story of the relationship between Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots; pretender to Elizabeth’s throne and mother of her successor, in the period leading up to Mary’s death. It makes for great drama. It does not make for great history, however. The critical moment of the play is the face-to-face confrontation between the two queens. In fact, they never met.
The production blends time periods. The costumes evoke the Elizabethan age but the play begins and ends with security men in modern suits with ear pieces ushering ER on and off stage. Similarly the set pieces and decorations evoke the historical period but the stage is surrounded by modern looking razor wire. I’m not sure how much these modern elements add to the experience but I did not find them distracting. The production design included a few more abstract elements. Some were extremely effective, others less so.
Stratford veterans Lucy Peacock and Seana McKenna are perfectly suited and perfectly matched as Mary and Elizabeth, respectively. I’ve seen both many times over the years and have rarely been disappointed. I certainly was not disappointed this time.