(Michael Billington's article appeared in the Guardian, 1/11.)
"Our aim," says Mark Leipacher, director of the young Faction company, "is to create big, bold, bombastic theatre with limited resources." I'm not sure about bombastic; one of the many virtues of this exciting production is that it gives us an intimate, stripped‑down and mercifully unrhetorical version of Schiller's great 1800 romantic tragedy.
What is remarkable about the play is its ability to preserve what George Steiner in The Death of Tragedy called "the exact balance of doom". Mary Stuart is the prisoner of her regal cousin, Elizabeth, but also the victim of her guilty conscience and of the various plots, led by the impulsive Mortimer and the double-dealing Leicester, to secure her freedom. But, if Mary is physically confined, Elizabeth is metaphysically trapped by the byzantine intrigues of court life and the isolation of monarchy. Schiller's heart may go out to Mary, but his head fully understands the disillusion and despair of Elizabeth.