Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off

‘Once upon a time, there were twa queens on the wan green island, and the wan green island was split inty twa kingdoms. But no equal kingdoms . . .’

So, La Corbie, the trickster prophet, turns the wheel of fortune and plunges us into the ‘whispers rumours, souchs and chatters’ at the heart of this story of two of history’s most intriguing women – Mary, Queen of Scots, and her cousin and fellow ruler, Elizabeth I of England.

Mary and Elizabeth are two women with much in common, but more that sets them apart.

Following the death of her husband, the Dauphin of France, the beautiful, and staunchly Catholic Mary Stuart has returned from France to rule Scotland, a country she neither knows nor understands. Ill prepared to rule in her own right, Mary has failed to learn what her protestant cousin, Elizabeth Tudor, knows only too well – that a queen must rule with her head, not her heart.

While Mary’s return to Scotland is little cause for celebration among her own people, it is even less welcome at her cousin’s glittering, highly politicised court. Elizabeth is well versed in the ruthlessness required of an absolute monarch and this is unleashed with bloody consequences when Mary re-marries and gives birth to a son. For her heir has a strong claim to the throne of both Scotland and England.

All too soon the stage is set for a deadly end game in which there can only be one winner and one queen on the one green island.

First performed in 1987, Liz Lochhead’s play Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off is widely acknowledged as a modern Scottish classic. Feisty, fast-moving, peppered with live music, wit, and cheek, this vigorous ensemble production is presented by the National Theatre of Scotland and directed by the outstanding Alison Peebles who appeared in the original production as Elizabeth.

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