A 'verse-play' by Friedrich Schiller written in German as Maria Stuart. This thrilling play tells the story of Mary Queen of Scots and her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Mary has been held prisoner for nineteen years. Will her cousin be seen to sentence her to death? When the two women meet there is an energetic fusion of passionate main plots and counter-plots... Two queens. One in power. One in prison. It's all in the execution.
Written in 1800 by Friedrich Schiller, who is often described as 'The German Shakespeare'. Post First World War, the play was first presented on the West End stage in 1958.
Old Vic Theatre (Stephen Spender) 1958
Opened 17 September 1958, Closed 8 November 1958 (in repertory) at the Old Vic Theatre
Translated by Stephen Spender.
The cast featured Irene Worth as 'Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots' and Catherine Lacey as 'Queen Elizabeth I' with Kenneth Mackintosh as 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh'. Directed by Peter Wood.
Sadler's Wells Theatre (German version) 1958
29 and 30 September 1958 at Sadler's Wells Theatre
The cast featured Heidemarie Hatheyer as 'Maria Stuart, Queen of Scots' and Maria Wimmer as 'Queen Elizabeth I' with Rudolf Therkatz as 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh'. Directed by Karl Heinz Stroux.
Presented in German for two performances only as part of a one week season by the Dusseldorf Playhouse Company (Dusseldorf Schauspielhaus).
Old Vic Theatre (Stephen Spender) 1960
Opened 11 October 1960, Closed 13 December 1960 (in repertory) at the Old Vic Theatre
Translated by Stephen Spender.
The cast featured Gwen Taylor as 'Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots' and Valerie Taylor as 'Queen Elizabeth I' with Robert Harris as 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh'. Directed by Philip Dale.
Greenwich Theatre (Robert David Macdonald) 1988
Previewed 12 May 1988, Opened 16 May 1988, Closed 25 June 1988
Translated by Robert David Macdonald.
The cast featured Fiona Shaw as 'Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots' and Paola Dionisotti as 'Queen Elizabeth I' with Hugh Ross as 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh'. Directed by Tim Albery with designs by Antony McDonald and lighting by Christopher Toulmin.
NT Lyttelton Theatre (Jeremy Sams) 1996
Previewed 15 March 1996, Opened 21 March 1996, Closed 3 August 1996 (in repertory) at the NT Lyttelton Theatre
Translated by Jeremy Sams and presented by the National Theatre.
The cast featuresd Isabelle Huppert as 'Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots' and Anna Massey as 'Queen Elizabeth 1' with Paul Jesson as 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh', BenMiles as 'Mortimer', Tim Pigott-Smith as 'Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester', Patrick Godfrey 'Sir Amias Paulet' and Gillian Barge as 'Hanna Kennedy' along with Jean-Benoit Blanc, Osmund Bullock, Christopher Campbell, Naomi Capron, Jonathan Deverell, Sandra Duncan, Randal Herley, Ian Hogg, Colin Hurley, Collin Johnson, Will Keen, Seymour Matthews and James Nickerson.
Directed by Howard Davies with designs by William Dudley, lighting by David Hersey, music by Jason Carr and sound by Jonathan Suffolk.
Donmar Warehouse / Apollo Theatre (Peter Oswald) 2005
Previewed 14 July 2005, Opened 20 July 2005, Closed 3 September 2005 at the Donmar Warehouse
Previewed 7 October 2005, Opened 19 October 2005, Closed 14 January 2006 at the Apollo Theatre
Presented in a new version by Peter Oswald. he original cast at the Donmar Warehouse featured Janet McTeer as 'Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots' and Harriet Walter as 'Queen Elizabeth I' with David Horovitch as 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh', Rory Kinnear as 'Mortimer', Guy Henry as 'Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester', James Fleet as 'Sir Amias Paulet' and Barbara Jefford as 'Hanna Kennedy' along with Tam Dean Burn, David Burke, Stephen Fletcher and Rufus Wright.
The original West End cast at the Apollo Theatre featured Janet McTeer as 'Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots' and Harriet Walter as 'Queen Elizabeth I' with David Horovitch as 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh', Rory Kinnear as 'Mortimer', Guy Henry as 'Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester', Michael Simkins as 'Sir Amias Paulet' and June Watson as 'Hanna Kennedy' along with Tam Dean Burn, Stephen Fletcher, Paul Jesson and Rufus Wright.
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd with designs by Anthony Ward, lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Paul Arditti.
Harriet Walter's recent West End theatre credits include Moira Buffini's Dinner (Wyndham's Theatre 2003). Phyllida Lloyd's recent London theatre directing credits include the ABBA musical Mamma Mia! (Prince Edward Theatre 1999).
"As a rule I would only volunteer to sit up straight and in the same position for two long hours and 45 long minutes (admittedly with an interval) if I thought I was going to be disembarking at the end of it in a hot country with nice beaches. As it turned out Peter Oswald's sharp and clear translation of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart was even more rewarding than that... The director Phyllida Lloyd has given all the men in Elizabeth I's court the freedom of modern suits in which to do their manipulating and politicking, while the queens, both the embattled ruling one, and the imprisoned one, are stuck, tightly bound in their stiff-boned corsets. It is an effective visual metaphor that works spectacularly well when the two queens meet. Schiller took liberties with historical truth - Elizabeth and Mary never did meet - but the idea of their meeting is a brilliant fiction here magnificently played out in a heavy downpour... Janet McTeer's Mary is beautiful, statuesque and sensual. The black slate floor is shiny and precarious from the rain, and shards of bright, exposing light point up both the momentousness of this event and the stark, bony, perfected sexlessness of Harriet Walter's Elizabeth... It all ends, inevitably, in an execution but, in the deft hands of Schiller, Oswald and Lloyd, Mary Stuart leaves you with the clear feeling that Elizabeth was the real loser. Possibly not such a fiction in the end." The Sunday Telegraph
"The director Phyllida Lloyd never strong-arms Mary Stuart into being 'relevant'. Instead, this play - written in 1800, performed here in a fluid, elegant new version by Peter Oswald - is allowed space to let the echoes chime through. No clunking references to 'coalitions', no ironic American accents, just the mechanics of power laid bare to dramatic effect... Watching the two queens glide across Anthony Ward's spare, atmospheric set is like watching two vast ships on a terrible collision course. Both female leads crackle with the kind of gun-powder charisma that sparks devotion and foments intrigue, their long skirts swishing across the stage with decisive intent... In this fine production, every lie, every deception, rings true." The Sunday Times
"Miss Walter is magnificent as the great English queen. She is erect and private, cruel, a cold shard of duty. And she is but one of the many powerful players in this fine version by Peter Oswald, directed by Phyllida Lloyd... 'The Stuart', as she is referred to repeatedly, is played with an almost swollen humanity by Janet McTeer. Busty, tall and blonde, this is Mary as a modern, almost metropolitan woman... One stylistic inconsistency is that the woman wear bustling, silken frocks while the men are attired in business suits. Yet this does not get in the eye's way. The acting so so damn good, the story so gripping. At almost three hours it is a long night, but an unforgettable one." The Daily Mail
"A play about the battle of wills between Elizabeth I and her cousin Mary Queen of Scots may sound as dull as a history lesson on a drowsy summer's day. But Schiller's drama becomes a psychological thriller as riveting as any Hitchcock movie thanks to Peter Oswald's adaptation and two actresses who could make letters from the Revenue sound gripping. Having tried to claim the English throne in 1558, Mary was jailed - and 19 years later had her head lopped off. But what a spirited fight she put up, demonstrated in director Phyllida Lloyd's sizzling production. The alluring, statuesque Janet McTeer is Mary. Wily Elizabeth, played by Harriet Walter, is like a steel knuckle duster hidden in a velvet glove, and outwits her rival by exploiting the cowardice and self-interest of her male courtiers. Guy Henry is brilliant as the Earl of Leicester, playing both sides for his own ends before having to flee. And David Horovitch splendidly presents Lord Burleigh as an inflexible bureaucrat with a heart of concrete. In life, Elizabeth and Mary never met. Here - dressed in period costumes, while the mere men wear modern suits - they come face to face after a rain storm. It's a wonder steam doesn't rise from Ms McTeer as she rails against her rival. What a pair. What a regal theatrical event." The Sun
Mary Stuart in London at the Apollo Theatre previewed from 7 October 2005, opened on 19 October 2005 and closed on 14 January 2006 - a transfer from the Donmar Warehouse
Almeida Theatre / Duke of York's Theatre (Robert Icke) 2016/2018
Previewed 2 December 2016, Opened 15 December 2016, Closed 28 January 2017 at the Almeida Theatre
Previewed 13 January 2018, Opened 25 January 2018, Closed 31 March 2018 at the Duke of York's Theatre in London West End
A major revival of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart in London presented in a new adaptation created by Robert Icke and starring Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams
This production transfers to London's West End following an acclaimed run at the North London Almeida Theatre in December 2016.
For this West End transfer at the Duke of York's Theatre both Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams are reprising their roles - before each performance they will decide by the toss of a coin which role they will play - either 'Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots' or 'Queen Elizabeth I'.
Presented in an adaptation by Robert Icke. The cast also features Rudi Dharmalingam 'Sir Edward Mortimer', John Light as 'Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester', Carmen Munroe as 'Hanna Kennedy', Eileen Nicholas as 'Sir Andrew Melville', and Daniel Rabin as 'Henry Grey, Earl of Kent' - who are all reprising their roles from the Almeida Theatre season. Joining them for the West End run are Michael Byrne as 'George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury', Christopher Colquhoun as 'Sir Amias Paulet', Callum Finlay as 'Count Aubespine', David Jonsson as 'Sir William Davison', and Elliot Levey as 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh'.
Adaptated and directed by Robert Icke with designs by Hildegard Bechtler, video by Tim Reid, lighting by Jackie Shemesh, music by Laura Marling and sound by Paul Arditti.
When this production opened here at the Duke of York's Theatre in January 2018, Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard highlighted that director Robert Icke "offers here a fluid and thrilling modern-dress adaptation of the Schiller classic for Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams to get their teeth into... both, clad identically in simple white shirt and black velvet trousers, are outstanding... The last act, with its chilling closing tableau of loneliness, is devastatingly fine. Magnificent." Ann Treneman in the Times praised how, "when the two queens meet, claws very much extended, it becomes electric... What had been political gets very personal and, from this moment, the play crackles with energy and intensity as the two sides fight it out." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph explained that, "first seen at the Almeida at the end of 2016... this intellectually heavyweight evening... looks, sounds and feels better in its new home." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail commented that, "despite minor irritations from director-adaptor Robert Icke, the West End transfer of Mary Stuart is complex, highbrow theatre with top-notch acting from Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams... At three hours, Mary Stuart is in no way a short evening, but it makes for a richly intellectual spectacle."
When this production opened at North London's Almeida Theatre in December 2016, Sam Marlowe in the Times explained how "at the beginning of each performance of Robert Icke's nerve-shreddingly intense new version of this 1800 Friedrich Schiller classic, a coin is spun to decide which of the two leading actresses - Lia Williams or Juliet Stevenson - will play the title role and which Elizabeth I. Whatever the outcome - and I've seen both - you're guaranteed more than three hours of dense, gripping theatre, as the queens face each other in a savagely elegant endgame, and the politics of the past startlingly reflect the present... It's fascinating theatre - fiercely pertinent, exhilaratingly potent." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard said that "rather than being a gimmick, director Robert Icke's innovation emphasises that the characters really are two sides of one coin. Each is trapped by public expectations. Icke is also responsible for an energetic new version of the text, and the result is a topical exploration of the haphazardness of politics." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph noted how "the conceit is a canny one and it must be intensely energising for the two leads... The flip side of the cleverness, though, is a certain frustration: unless you catch back-to-back shows, you're going to miss seeing how the playing approaches differ." Neil Norman in the Daily Express thought that "the bare stage and business-suited production would be unbearably dull were it not for the superb performances from both actresses and the ensemble around them. The concluding costume change is an extraordinarily potent coup de théâtre." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail praised how "wunderkind director Robert Icke has stripped back Schiller's history play about Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots to its compulsive, animal core. Add to that the ruse of Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams deciding who plays which role by tossing a coin and you have an edgy, tantalising thriller... With subtle, passionate and vigorous acting, this is an intoxicating production... as period realpolitik, this is gripping stuff indeed." Michael Billington in the Guardian wrote that "while I have reservations about the production, the two actors are a pleasure to watch... whatever my qualms about the production, Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams memorably confirm that Elizabeth and Mary are two sides of the same regal coin." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper hailed how "Robert Icke has adapted and directed this extraordinarily gripping, edge-of-your-seat version of Schiller's great play."
Robert Icke's West End credits include Shakespeare's Hamlet with Andrew Scott in the title role for the Almeida Theatre at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2017 and, with Duncan Macmillan, adapting George Orwell's 1984 for the Headlong Theatre Company at the Playhouse Theatre for three seasons in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Juliet Stevenson's London theatre credits include the role of 'Gertrude' in Robert Icke's revival of Shakespeare's Hamlet, starring Andrew Scott in the title role, at the Almeida and Harold Pinter Theatres in 2017; the role of the violinist 'Stephanie Abrahams' in Matthew Lloyd's revival of Tom Kempinski's play Duet For One, opposite Henry Goodman as 'Dr Alfred Feldmann', at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2009; the role of 'Hetty' in Trevor Nunn's production of Imogen Stubbs' We Happy Few at the Gielgud Theatre in 2004; and the title role in Howard Davies' revival of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in 1989.
Lia Williams' London stage stage credits include alternating the roles of 'Kate' amd 'Anna' with Kristin Scott Thomas in Ian Rickson's revival of Harold Pinter's Old Times, with Rufus Sewell as 'Deeley', at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2013; the role of 'Eva' in Alan Strachan's revival of Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular at the Garrick Theatre in 2007; the role of 'Rosalind' in Dominic Cooke's revival of Shakespeare's As You Like It, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the Novelloe Theatre in 2006; the role of 'Ruth' in Robin Lefevre's revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, with Ian Holm as 'Max', at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2001; the role of 'Kyra Hollis' in Richard Eyre's production of David Hare's Skylight, opposite Michael Gambon as 'Tom Sergeant', at the Wyndham's Theatre in 1995; and the role of 'Goneril' in Max Stafford-Clark's revival of Shakespeare's King Lear, with Tom Wilkinson in the title role, at the Royal Court Theatre in 1993.
"Heads or tails? This historical thriller opens with a 50/50 moment. Every evening the spin of a coin decides the immediate fate of its stars Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams. Depending on which way it falls, one will play Queen Elizabeth I, the other Elizabeth's imprisoned enemy and Catholic counterpart Mary Stuart... There can be few more tense openings to a play than this, with the audience and cast waiting for the coin to wobble to a stop. As a symbol of the way history teeters on a knife-edge it's hugely effective. But the real achievement here is that director Robert Icke keeps the tension in his modern dress production as taut as a high wire. Tonight, Stevenson plays Mary, whose claim to the throne threatens Elizabeth's reign. She displays a desperation that belies the way we think of royal executions. For instance, on the wintry day that Charles I was beheaded it is said he wore two shirts to prevent him from shivering lest the crowd thought he was shaking from fear. And Stevenson's Mary is also full of poise and dignity. But there is also white-knuckled anguish to her fight, and in the scene where Friedrich Schiller's 1800 play pivots on an imagined meeting between the queens, Stevenson is as brimful of fear as she is fight. This time Williams has the less sympathetic role. But she executes it (sorry) mesmerisingly, her face haunted and gaunt. It is as if the responsibility of ruling, handed to her by virtue of being Henry VIII's daughter, weighs on her like a hereditary disease." The London Metro
"Actresses Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams spin a coin at the start of the play to decide who will play Elizabeth I and who Mary Queen of Scots in this acclaimed production freely adapted and directed by Robert Icke. The tension comes from Elizabeth's dilemma of whether to execute the imprisoned Mary, a claimant to the English throne. It's beefed up by a made-up meeting between the two... A heavy but engrossing evening of dirty Tudor politics - and two smashing performances whichever way the coin falls." The Mail on Sunday
"It may sound gimmicky, but this role reversal decided by fate broadens and illuminates Schiller's play, and the duality of these queens' parts. It also showcases the theatrical cojones of Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson, gutsy enough to learn two lead parts and let the toss of a coin decide which role they must immediately inhabit. The play is an exploration on power, politics and the fickleness of fate... Robert Icke's lithe, vital adaptation, with its talk of self-determining nationhood, terrorism, refugees and religious martyrdom, feels striking in its contemporary relevance... There is no letup in the tension, right up to the extraordinarily meditative, cathartic scene in which Mary being prepared for the scaffold is contrasted with Gloriana's construction, as Elizabeth is trussed up in a farthingale, her face painted spectre white. Icke is a boldly visual director. Here, he makes some use of screens and soundscape, but his aces are this pair of queens: the triumph of this thrilling show lies in their execution." The Sunday Times
This production was original seen at North London's Almeida Theatre - previewed from 2 December 2016, opened on 15 December 2016 and closed on 28 January 2017 - when the original cast featured Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams, who decided at each performance by the toss of a coin which role they would play, either 'Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots' or 'Queen Elizabeth I'; the cast also featured Alexander Cobb as 'Count Aubespine', Rudi Dharmalingam 'Sir Edward Mortimer', Vincent Franklin as 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh', Joshua James as 'Sir William Davison', John Light as 'Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester', Carmen Munroe as 'Hanna Kennedy', Eileen Nicholas as 'Sir Andrew Melville', Daniel Rabin as 'Henry Grey, Earl of Kent', Sule Rimi as 'Sir Amias Paulet', and Alan Williams as 'George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury'.
Mary Stuart in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 13 January 2018, opened on 25 January 2018 and closed on 31 March 2018 - a transfer from the Almeida Theatre in North London