first night

Mary Stuart

Josie Williams takes a trip back in time with Fourth Wall's second show of the year.

 Since their inception last year, Fourth Wall Theatre have consistently delivered outstanding productions, so I came to ‘Mary Stuart’ with high expectations. For the most part, I was not disappointed, and although this show was not quite of the level I have come to expect from this company, it is still most definitely worth seeing.

The aesthetics of the show were incredibly impressive – I particularly liked the use of sheer drapes as a backdrop, which were lit up with different colours at different points in the play. Costumes and props were also of a notably high standard, especially for both queens, who had some beautiful costumes. It was therefore a shame to see a couple of small things, such as a medal used in the first half, which looked so much less professional – the high level of everything else did make them stand out, but this is a very minor issue.

The acting was also, on the whole, of a high standard. The standout performance for me came from Jasmine Price as Elizabeth I. Regal from head to toe, she gave a faultless portrayal of the conflicted queen, keeping the audience on our feet, wondering whether to like, pity or hate her throughout the play. Emilie Aspeling, as the titular character, also gave a deeply captivating performance, and the one scene between the two women was the indisputable highlight of the show. It was a shame not to see more of them together, as they played off each other so brilliantly. Tristan Robinson was also excellent as the double-crossing Earl of Leicester, so believable when professing his love to each woman that the audience weren’t completely sure which way his allegiance lay until very late in the play.

However, this high standard was not always met by some of the smaller roles – a lot of lines were very rushed, with the result that words kept getting lost. The script was very eloquent, but this did trip the actors up at times, with almost everyone stumbling over a line at least once. I’m sure that this will improve over the course of the run though.

Words were also lost due to the blocking at times, with lines occasionally delivered facing entirely away from the audience. The harp was another thing that proved problematic at times, being slightly too loud when playing over speech, and distracting from the lines. However, the inclusion of the harp as a whole was fantastic, and I particularly enjoyed the use of the Skye Boat Song – a very subtle reference, but a song about a Scottish monarch coming across the sea from France to claim the English throne was very apt. Having the harpist wander on stage though, music in hand, to give the last line, felt very awkward, especially for such a weighty line.

In conclusion, this was a very enjoyable play, with every bit as much sass as I was given to expect, and two very complex, beautifully played strong female leads. Despite some small issues, it is certainly a worthwhile way to pass a few hours, so get yourself down to the Assembly Rooms tonight or tomorrow!



11 December 2015

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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