Credit Mihaela Bodlovic

Review: James VI Queen of The Fight @ Theatre Royal Glasgow

By Marianne Tambini

Marianne eloquently reviews the Scottish tour of James IV as it visited Glasgow.

“The deid were living as you live now”, Danielle Jam earnestly narrates from centre stage, as she opens James IV: Queen of the Fight. The show is playwright Rona Munro’s fourth in a series of plays set in successive courts of medieval Scotland.

This is an apt prologue to a historical play, smoothly joining depictions of the political and the personal. We soon find characters such as the grumbling poet (Keith Fleming), quick-tempered housekeeper (Blythe Duff) and moody teenage queen (Sarita Gabony), who play on familiar tropes with an easy humour while adding a human touch, making the world of the court recognisable.

It is largely due to the strong ensemble cast that the audience can understand a court in which Scots, English, Gaelic, Spanish and French are spoken – showing us that medieval Scotland was more international than we might think. Gameli Tordzro provides live music using traditional African instruments, sometimes accompanied by members of the ensemble. There is dance, poetry, and several extended fight scenes. It is a play which is designed to be entertaining as much as it is thoughtful, and as such is visually and aurally engaging. The set design by John Bausor and music composed by Paul Leonard-Morgan facilitated transitions between dialogue and more stylised scenes.

As we get to know this court, so do Lady Anne (Laura Lovemore) and Lady Ellen (Jam), arriving from plague-stricken Bilbao. As they integrate into the court, with all the social and political complexities this brings, the performance asks questions about entertainment, performance, intimacy, conflict, international politics, and what it means to have a home. The relationship between these two characters underlies the central storyline and is well realised by the actors, as is the dual character of James (Daniel Cahill) as king and as lover.

The play, at its climax, relates the characters and their story to historical reality and historical artefacts in a striking way. This would have been enough without the return to narration in the epilogue, which felt somewhat prescriptive and did an injustice to the production itself. This alone projected a much more complex, beautiful, and sometimes painful picture of humanity, past and present.


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