Shadow in the Sun

Sheringham Little Thetare

There was a palpable buzz of anticipation in the Little Theatre last night as Kate O'Mara took the stage as Mary Queen of Scots.

We first see her kneeling in prayer,  then pacing, like a caged bird, round the cramped quarters where she is held under house arrest by her cousin and protector, Queen Elizabeth the First.

The year is 1568 and Mary has been forced to flee Scotland, defeated and deposed, to seek refuge in England, but determined to regain what she believes to be rightfully hers.

Addressing the audience directly, O'Mara, who has also devised and directed this touring production, portrays a complex woman, at times vain, coquettish, conniving, ingratiating, desperate – but always the proud queen.

The first half ends with the stately entrance, through the audience, of Patricia Shakesby as Elizabeth, resplendent in gold, silver and pearls.

In part two, as events lead inexorably towards Mary's execution, we hear Elizabeth's side of the story: in struggling to resolve the dilemma presented by Mary, she finds herself forced to “strike or be stricken”.

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Using the rich language taken – as throughout – from many original sources, Shakesby makes us identify fully with her inner turmoil, the “care” that is “like my shadow in the sun”.

The small space of the Little Theatre lends itself perfectly to this kind of intimacy and the audience's appreciation was warmly expressed.

If only the ticket prices had not been quite so high (£16, no concessions), more people might have shared in the enjoyment.

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