Well, I got in.
Before I did I had an interesting prelude, as the guy behind me in the queue was very good value. I didn't get his name. He was an extremely self-possessed patrician artsy American, such as I'd only really ever before encountered in episodes of Frasier. Self-possessed but also highly-strung, and opinionated, in a good way. I liked him even more when he sounded off about Bush and Blair's idiocy and duplicity respectively ("When the guy says, 'It's my belief...', my heart sinks"). He flew in from the States on July 21, so his tense and terse appraisal of the current crisis - "the terrorists have clearly won" - was backed up by strident and convincing portraits of a city in panic, confusion and fear. "This is what they wanted," he says. "They got what they wanted." He's in town because he 'looks after' two singers with the Kirov Opera. This meant that he had equally strident views on current productions of classics of all kinds in London and New York. He spends a lot of time in St.Petersburg with the Kirov, so goes often to the Maly Theatre. I'll bet he's very good at his job. I'd hate to get on the wrong side of a singer he 'looks after'.
The play was absorbing, fascinating. Elizabeth and Mary are characters I know well - I read shedloads of Tudor and Stuart stuff while writing my (barmy and unproduced) play
King Elizabeth. The portraits that emerge from the Schiller are superbly detailed, nuanced and ambivalent. But on the whole he plumps for a heroic reading of Mary's incarceration and death.
She's championed by her saintly gaoler Amyas Paulet (played by the eminently cuddly James Fleet), and is the object of passionate admiration, not only from the fanatical Catholic spy (Rory Kinnear) but the greybeards of Elizabeth's court. She's good-looking (to put it mildly...), fiercely intelligent, and is allowed, by the end, a spiritual renaissance that leaves her executioners looking like savages, and paradoxically stains Elizabeth's conscience indelibly. All terrifically dramatic, and the Rolls-Royce acting on display was truly thrilling. Tam Dean Burn as the priest who hears Mary's last confession, Guy Henry as the tragically ineffectual Leicester, and of course the queens, Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter, who I thought threw a touch of Maggie T into her portrayal of Elizabeth.