In this one-woman show, written and directed by Bernie C Brynes, Mary Tudor discusses England and her hopes for its transformation. We find her standing, in full period dress, reading the Financial Times; reinforcing the mix of timelines, she folds up the modern paper and begins talking about beheadings. They are a “dirty business” and there are less of them now that she is Queen, but the same can’t be said of burning at the stake, the preferred method of dispatching heretics.
Mary Tudor was Queen during a particularly turbulent period, with England reeling from the Reformation. Her wish – as she states – is to bring the people back to the Pope and to restore England to its pre-schism utopian state. Mary is also concerned with her legacy, an obvious parallel with prevailing thinking in modern politics. She is convinced that history will remember her as a ‘mother’ for England, making the tough decisions and doing what needs to be done to heal the country.
In Mary’s eyes, nothing is her fault; the country is in the condition it’s in because of Edward and his policies, and the fanatical protestant clergy. Her own fanaticism and her dangerous political ignorance are especially well presented through the performance. The Mary of this play fully believes everything she is doing to be for the benefit of her people.
Mary’s speeches are interwoven with those of the modern Conservative government, and it is a little surreal to hear the contemporary buzzword of “austerity” spoken so frequently by a woman in Tudor costume. The parallels to be found between the fanatical queen and the current government are well drawn, if a little stretched – no matter the state of modern society, we don’t behead our enemies and everyone has religious freedom.
However, these thoughts and parallels are not developed, and they are not set within an historical framework. It is well known that Mary’s successor, Elizabeth, ushered in a golden age in England, with advances in every conceivable area of arts and sciences. But within a hundred years of Mary’s death England was in the grips of a civil war – and a king was executed by the people. Is this production serving as a cautionary tale? Why has Brynes pointed out these parallels?
In the end, the play is an interesting piece, well written and performed. However, the failure to develop its points further leaves it an ultimately unsatisfying experience.