Marie (4 stars)

This article is from 2017


An actress loses herself in the role of Mary, Queen of Scots

A one-woman show about Mary, Queen of Scots sounds like the most generic of lo-fi fringe fodder, but Marie, a new play created by actress Sarah MacGillivray and director Phil Bartlett manages to dodge the expected clichés and come up with something fresh.

As a play, Marie isn't a biopic of Mary; the central character of Marie is a Scottish actress who enjoys playing the part of the Scots queen at a regular, historically themed booze-up in a London pub called the Prince Arthur. The pub itself is run by Liz and her husband Barry: as Marie's search for acting work grows more and more frustrating, the young actress finds herself retreating into Mary's character, and tensions begin to rise between Marie / Mary and Liz.

Confusing a stage persona with real life is nothing new; the Oscar-winning 1947 film A Double Life features an actor who mixes up Othello's problems with his own to tragic effect. At first, this variation on the theme seems content to make some trenchant remarks and score a few easy gags about the difficulties of a girl's endless auditions and the problems of finding good acting work. 'It seems that Girls Gone Wild isn't a feminist survival show after all … ' Marie laments. But MacGillivray soon gets stuck into the real drama and extracts tension from the domestic strife between Scottish Marie and English Liz, reflecting a traditional historical animosity, and she and Bartlett skillfully build the material to a Gothic, dark, and violent climax.

Marie is a free-to-enter show that's got a lot more to offer than many costlier alternatives; with only a dress, some minimal lighting and a lot of energy, MacGillivray manages to ensnare audiences with a well-told tale, with wry observation and caustic humour giving way to a deliciously twisted story of obsession.

Laughing Horse @ The Hanover Tap, until 26 Aug (not 7, 14, 19–21), noon, free.


  • 4 stars

A darkly comic new play inspired by the life of Mary Queen of Scots.