James III- Festival Theatre

Last night I got to see the third part of The James Plays, by Rona Munro. The James Plays is a trilogy of three separate plays, that can be watched in order, or as an individual play in itself. I saw James III, without seeing any of the other shows. They are about the first three James Kings of Scotland.

Now I don’t much about the history of the Scottish monarch, regardless, it was an extremely interesting piece of theatre, with political undertones reflecting the state of Scottish politics within the last few years – the referendum mainly. Showing what Scotland is really about, her people.

The audience were mainly seated below the stage in a traditional proscenium arch auditorium, however there was a small section for the audience to be seated at the back of the stage creating a semi- theatre in the round.  The audience seated on the stage completed the parliament of Scotland, with the throne in between the two sets of seats. It really involved  the audience into the piece and emphasised the idea that Scotland is about her people rather than anyone else.  About her citizens, the sort of people who go to the theatre, the civilians – they are the people who should be part of the parliament.

It had a playful tone, despite the political themes, which may strike a tender chord to some of the audience members, mainly provided by the comedic acting from Matthew Pidegeon, who played off the slightly nutty, reckless and extremely self absorbed King James very well. In a time of economic ruin, James is wistfully throwing away his money towards unnecessary  ‘pleasures’.  Marlin Crepin as Queen Margaret, however overshadowed King James, a tricky feat. A calm, but strong standing figure, turned stand in ruler of Scotland. Uniting the nation, and it’s people. Her acting standing out among the ensemble, bold, authoritative and powerful, and altogether just quite inspiring.

I loved the little touches, such as the traditional style music sung throughout the piece to bring it to a whole, along with the ceilidh-fied modern music played before and the performance and during the interval. It set a jolly and sort of communal atmosphere. Along with the set which was simplistic, but symbolic. The audience becoming part of the set, along with a large dagger sticking up off the stage. It was hard to miss, but really effective in it’s foreshadowing of the oncoming revolution by the future King Jamie. (Daniel Cahill)

All in all, I really liked this piece, in what it was trying to do. I really appreciated the political undertones and the community aspect of the whole piece, and I mean, it doesn’t hinder that Daniel Cahill got stark naked, albeit unexpected, on stage.

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