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Glory on Earth review at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh – ‘clever and satisfying’

Shannon Swan, Fiona Wood, Christina Gordon, Rona Morison, Hannah Jarrett-Scott, Kirsty McIntyre, Christie Gowans in Glory on Earth at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Drew Farrell Shannon Swan, Fiona Wood, Christina Gordon, Rona Morison, Hannah Jarrett-Scott, Kirsty McIntyre, Christie Gowans in Glory on Earth at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Drew Farrell
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The historical roots of Scotland’s religious divisions are the inspiration for Linda McLean’s Glory on Earth, which examines the relationship between the young Catholic Mary Queen of Scots and the Protestant reformer John Knox.

Using Knox’s own accounts of their four documented meetings, McLean portrays two people who believe that they have the God-given right to power.

Michael John McCarthy’s inventive use of modern music and Karen Tennent’s cool, open design of Gothic arches, lit with glistening intensity by Simon Wilkinson, all support director David Greig in opening this up from the minutiae of historical Scottish detail to reveal a debate about more universal conflicts and fractures in society.

Jamie Sives’ Knox is intransigent and judgemental – an orator with a wheedling, almost simpering delivery, who succeeds because of his rhetorical skills, not the logic of his position.

Thirty years his junior, 18-year-old Mary arrives in Scotland to take the crown. Rona Morison gives her a vibrant optimism, open to imaginative debate. Still a girl, she is sure of herself, however – she knows that changing her religion might be politically expedient, but would expose her to more damaging accusations of inconstancy.

A chorus of Mary’s six serving girls (all also called Mary) provide a sounding board to her internal conflicts. They hiss when Knox threatens and double as various political figures of Scotland in 1561.

This is a clever and satisfying piece of theatre. A fitting conclusion to Greig’s first year at the helm of the Lyceum, it asks big questions but frames them within a fascinatingly local context.

Verdict
The roots of Scotland's religious divide open up a debate with universal resonance
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