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Glory on Earth

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

When an eighteen year old girl sweeps into town with the world seemingly at her feet, the only opposition she faces is from a middle-aged white man who enjoys laying down the law. Plus ca change, it seems, ever since Mary, Queen of Scots was forced to square up to John Knox over a series of meetings that took place in Edinburgh between 1561 and 1563.

Linda McLean's new play imagines these showdowns through the prism of Rona Morison's fiercely intelligent Mary, a dancing queen who isn't afraid to put her head on the block. Backing her up in David Greig's swish and suitably chic looking production are a fabulous entourage of six other Marys, who shimmy alongside the teen queen like a 1960s girl group. More than a mere chorus, they become different facets of Mary's inner self, giving her strength as she goes. By contrast, Jamie Sives' Knox is a mansplaining absolutist resembling the most rabid of internet trolls.

As McLean's dark dramatic poem unfolds over an intense set of exchanges, Mary may just want to have fun talking about boys and busting the latest moves, but as she finds her voice, it is other middle-aged white men who let her down.

In a contemporary landscape where the tragic results of such blinkered religious intolerance and abuse of male privilege are more blatantly apparent than ever, this is a story crying out to be told. In the face of latter day zealots as terrified of joy as Knox appears to be, this is a call to arms for young women everywhere, to be fearless, regret nothing and to dance for dear life itself.

The Herald, May 25th 2017

ends

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