Sep. 05, 2012 - Issue #881: Sex 2012
Passion of Mary: Off with ‘er ‘ead!
A tale of two Queens
Queen of two countries before she turned 25, Mary, best known as the Queen of Scots, saw her life of favour turn into misfortune at around the quarter-century mark. Forced to abdicate the throne and being imprisoned after attempting to take it back, she was to spend the rest of her days confined to Loch Leven Castle, where she'd eventually be beheaded at age 44.
It's a story that Annette Loiselle found herself drawn to when backbacking through Europe in the early 90s.
"I was just so moved by this woman who did so much in so little time, and who was my age when she was in prison at the time that I was at the castle, and that was it: she was in prison for 18 years and she lost her head," Loiselle notes. "She just became a real woman to me, and I felt like I needed to tell her story."
Soon after, Loiselle read a biography of Mary by Antonia Fraser, and she wrote a first scene ... and then stopped. For, in a curious parallel to Mary's story, about 18 years. But instead of losing her head at the end of that span, Loiselle gained a voice: The Passion of Mary marks her debut as a playwright, and that it's taken almost two decades to come to fruition speaks more to Loiselle's own busyness—as a performer, an instructor and a traveller—than anything else. She had a healthy acting career, mothered children, packed up the family and moved to Ghana for awhile. It wasn't until she returned to Edmonton in 2009 that she started to revisit it the idea seriously, sending it through a couple of workshops, letting it grow from a one-hander to a duo show, and, for its premiere in Theatre Network's Roxy Performance Series, surrounding herself with a sharp team of collaborators, (the production happens to launch Edmonton's theatre season, too): Catalyst's resident designer Bretta Gerecke is onboard, accompanied by director Glenda Stirling and the musical talents of both Paul Morgan Donald for sound design and Binaifer Kapadia for an original score. In the roles, Loiselle embodies Mary opposite actress Sian Williams— who hasn't graced a stage in almost a decade since taking a career shift as a chiropractor—as Elizabeth.
Passion finds Mary nearing the end of her tenure in a cell, awaiting execution, and while doing so reliving the big moments of her life, trying to find peace in both the things she's done and the injustices she's faced before the end comes. She imagines Elizabeth, the one who ordered her execution, is in there with her and scenes play out between the two as the final hour approaches.
That 18-year parallel between Loiselle's story's gestation and Mary's actual imprisonment only occurred to the playwright recently, but, she notes, underscores just how difficult a term like that would be to fathom.
"When I was doing the workshop last fall, and in the midst of writing it, at that time I was 44. And that was the age that Mary was when she lost her head. And here I am this year, producing the play, I'm 45, a year older than Mary was when she lost her head, and when I was first turned onto her story, I was 26, a year older than she was when she was first imprisoned. I just think that's really interesting: the 18 years from when I first found her story until I wrote her story is the same 18 years she spent in prison. And in that time I've gotten married, had four children, I've had a career in theatre, I've travelled ... there's so much I've had the luck and the privilege of being able to do in the same amount of time that she had just literally stuck in a castle, embroidering and writing letters furiously.
"How the heck did she survive? I don't know how she did it."
Until Sun, Sep 16 (8 pm)
The Passion of Mary
Directed by Glenda Stirling
Roxy Theatre, $16 – $26 vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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