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Marie review at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh – ‘strong piece but with more potential than substance’

Sarah MacGillivray in Marie at Assembly Halls, Edinburgh Sarah MacGillivray in Marie at Assembly Halls, Edinburgh
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Nicely turned as comedy, Sarah MacGillivray and Phil Bartlett’s story of a Scottish actress straight out of drama school who goes down to London to make it big has much to recommend it.

MacGillivray creates a pleasing suite of characters in the pub where Marie ends up, pulling pints in return for her keep. She helps out with the popular history night by taking on the persona of Mary Queen of Scots, which allows for many entertaining thumbnail sketches of the various regulars who take on their own characters for the nights, while drawing a focus on the publican and his hard-working wife, Liz.

The gentle humour here, and the skill with which MacGillivray creates many distinct characters who are clear enough to return in later scenes, make it stand out. Less substantial is the main thrust of the piece, which sees Marie get a part at the RSC and take on the persona of Mary, while seeing Liz as Mary’s nemesis, Queen Elizabeth I.

The denouement, satisfying though it is, feels too obvious and easily won to be the macabre and chilling spectacle it could be. MacGillivray and director Bartlett have developed a strong piece, but it still has more potential than substance.

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Tale of obsession with Mary Queen of Scots carries a quiet malevolence but lacks punch