Glory on Earth – Review

It’s an intriguing concept in all senses of the word to conceive of a play dramatising the encounters between Mary Queen of Scots and John Knox.

The potential for fire-cracking dialogue and an explosion of cultures is immense, but unfortunately the fire doesn’t seem to quite catch in Linda McLean’s new play “Glory on Earth” which is enjoying its premiere run until June 10th at the Lyceum under the direction of David Greig.

Rona Morison as Mary is impressive as the feisty bemused 18 year old who arrives at Leith to claim her kingdom, only to find a cold, repressive society under the thumb of John Knox who has banned dancing, Catholicism, and other such foreign fripperies.

It’s a hostile country for the young queen, used to the warmth and gaiety of France. Surrounded by her court of “Marys” – here increased in number to a chorus of six – her thoughts and desires, her frustrations and struggles are ably expressed, portrayed in a mixture of music and dance. The composer and sound designer M J McCarthy has taken a bold approach in the choice of music – there are fragments of 20th and 21st century popular music in an electronic recorded soundtrack,emphasising just how much a teenager Mary is, with the six cast members singing, playing instruments and performing multiple roles.

Unfortunately Jamie Sives as John Knox is just not thundering enough. His approach is more measured and deliberate – no doubt entirely rational, but not charismatic enough to be believable as a man who ignited a whole country’s beliefs. Mary certainly seems to better him in most exchanges, with Knox resorting to paternalistic condescension as his final retort.

The play seems to end in rather a rush. We move from teenage years to execution with little shown in between. It’s a play with promise – looks good, sounds good, but that final spark of greatness just proves elusive.

Lyceum Theatre until June 10th


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