Storytelling phenom, and Stand-Up Marjolein Robertson seeks to fuse the two disciplines in Me, Myself and Mary (Queen of Scots). The result, a one-woman play written by Raymond Friel, is something akin to an episode of Horrible Histories, if motivated by a deep, personal trauma.
Robertson is on fine form, as ‘citizen historian’ Mary Fraser: lively and passionate about her chosen subject, the ill fated, and eternal romantic heroine, Mary (Queen of Scots). However, this is no story of the refined classes! Robertson’s Queen of Scots persona is a plain spoken Scots lass to say the least. Her embodiments of other historical figures, from ‘dumb as a rock’ Darnly, to the French dolphin, sorry Dauphin, are equally grotesque.
For those unaware of Mary’s convoluted, and ultimately tragic life story, I’ll spoil nothing. Suffice to say it’s a tale mired in 16th century politics, disease, and skullduggery. Mary, being nobly born had one job: to marry well. Therefore her history, so far as recorded is one of ‘romantic’ misadventure, from the sickly to the homicidal, from promises of glory, to guarantees of misery .
The telling is over the top and entirely amiable, keyed into the absurd rules, obligations and limitations attending the lives of the rich and famous at the end of the Mediaeval period. There are plenty of chuckles to be had, and if it’s not the outright funniest show this Fringe, then keep in mind this is a play, not an hour of Stand-Up. Ultimately the world of royal courts is predominantly concerned with power, but Friel is more interested in both his Marys’ predicaments, than their ambitions. Thus on top of the laughs, don’t be surprised if you shed a little tear.
However, I do feel the Mary (Queen of Scots) character could be dialled back a bit from ‘Pub Landlady’ realness. As a caricature she’s something of a blunt object, and affording her just a little more sophistication might offer even richer, wider comic potential
However, there’s narrative richness elsewhere. Alongside this unique historical ‘telling’, Mary dives into snippets of her own family history. Her sister, Lizzie was something of a bane to a young Mary’s life. Smart as a tack, and immensely accomplished, Lizzie’s was quite the shadow to live in. The young Queen of Scots had no such sister, but she did have a cousin by name of Elizabeth, and theirs was also a troubled relationship – to say the least.
As Mary’s singular public talk proceeds, and the ‘other’ Mary’s life journeys into troubled waters, this ‘Lizzie’ connection pushes ever more into proceedings. This is the grounding element, the harder to joke about reality of the present, without hundreds of years separating teller from the tragic subject of the telling. It’s as Mary’s 21st century history trickles out that the audience understands the force behind her full-blooded retreat into the history of the Queen of Scots. It’s clever, nuanced stuff, and definitely has a point of view when it comes to the role of comedy when attending to tragedies.
If the play has grander ambitions to make comment about society today, then those themes are a little lost in the clash between clown and deeply personal reflection. This is no reflection upon Marjolein Robertson who dives head first into her character, to create a sympathetic, slightly gauche enthusiast with a truly non-generic view of historical study. She mugs along to sound-effects with the best of them, injecting some physical comedy worth of the Chuckle Brothers or such like.
In the end, Me, Myself and Mary (Queen of Scots) is an ambitious wee play, rich in storytelling, comedy, and edged with tragedy. Robertson continues to make the Storytelling Centre a better place every time she takes the stage, and long may she keep coming back.