James III by Rona Munro is the third of the James plays and is a co-production of the National Theatre of Scotland, the National Theatre of Great Britain and The Edinburgh International Festival.
Medieval history is a murky place and the feuding Scotish clans are every bit as violent and exasperating as all the other factions of all the other nations that were then emerging. It’s difficult to understand how any one man could have held it together. Apart from the propensity to judicial murder (execution) and the seriously high knife crime stats, there were the vagaries of health that could carry off the most eminent between breakfast and dinner, as one of the servant boys says.
That being so, Rona Munro makes a gallant effort to give the audience a taste of the rumbustious court and the sheer hell of working with an individual like James Stewart III.
Personally, I wanted a clearer narrative. I was interested in the strength and capabilities of Queen Margaret. What a play that would make. I was interested in why Kings so often reject their heirs (the Hanoverians were another example). I was interested in the suggestion late on that the Scots didn’t want a solution, only a gripe.
The device of the mirror was to my taste over played and the bathing scene an unnecessary irritation (although good to see the wonderful Blythe Duff doing pantomime).
The play comes to an over hasty conclusion and I found the nudity offensive – I felt it left the actor, and not the character, vulnerable. Surely this isn’t the intention?
Run continues at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre until 22nd August.