Life and death
Religion and politics
Nobility, disgrace, and secret desire
Will pride and beauty bring salvation, or ruin?
A tale of two queens: Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots
In 1586, the Queen of Scotland, Mary Stuart (played by Kyoko Hasegawa), was charged with plotting treason during her exile in England. After being imprisoned at Fotheringhay Castle in rural Northamptonshire, she was tried, found guilty, and executed the following year.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth I of England (Sylvia Grab) — who Mary allegedly attempted to have murdered — remained at the Palace of Westminster by the River Thames in London as her own destiny and that of Mary, her first cousin once removed, reached its fatal conclusion.
There have been many recent Japanese productions of Mary Stuart, Italian playwright Dacia Maraini’s play for two actors. However, this production uses a text that tells the story on an epic scale, featuring a large ensemble cast to portray 20 characters. SePT is proud to present a Japanese language staging of English poet Stephen Spender’s adaptation of the 19th century verse play Mary Stuart by German playwright Friedrich Schiller.
For this production, Shintaro Mori returns to direct his 5th piece at SePT. This follows Mori’s four previous successful SePT productions of contemporary works by the acclaimed British playwrights Richard Bean (Harvest in 2012 and The Big Fellah in 2014), Martin McDonagh (The Cripple of Inishmaan; 2016), and Harold Pinter (The Caretaker; 2017).Mary Stuart is a perfect fit for Mori, who is best known for his success in directing history plays. This play based on English history is as powerful today as it has ever been. It portrays both the isolation of those who hold power and also the desperate struggle of people trying to live their lives as they navigate the whims of the powerful. Through its vivid depiction of its characters’ inner lives, Mary Stuart presents a living, breathing world that is resonant with our own modern day lives.
All of this makes Mary Stuart the perfect performance for the start of 2020. There is no doubt that this will be a theatre experience that is both truly spectacular and infused with pathos.
In the 16th century, England was engaged in rivalries with countries including France, Spain, and Scotland. It was also the time of a rift between Catholics and Protestants. In 1567, the Queen of Scotland, Mary Stuart, who was a devout Catholic, was imprisoned by powerful noblemen and forced to abdicate her throne. The following year, she escaped and fled to England, seeking refuge with her father’s Protestant cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England.
However, Elizabeth — who Catholics believed was an illegitimate child of King Henry VIII — was afraid of Mary’s claim to the throne as the legitimate daughter of James V of Scotland, whose mother, Margaret Tudor, was a sister of Henry VIII.
To contain potential trouble, Elizabeth kept Mary confined for 19 years in various castles and manor houses — during which time they never met. Then, whether through treachery or not, Mary was accused of being involved in a plot to kill Elizabeth, and, after a trial in which she was found guilty, she was beheaded, at age 44, on Feb. 8, 1587.
The story focuses on the confrontation between Mary and Elizabeth and the behavior of several men active in their circles, including a passionate backer of Mary named Mortimer and the scheming Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who won both queens’ favor. The play brilliantly presents the tense emotional conflict between the two queens, with Mary insisting on her royal status to the very end and Elizabeth agonizing over whether to authorize her relative’s execution, or not.
It was said that Mary could gain the trust of anyone who caught even a single glimpse of her, or who heard her voice even once. The men in Mary’s circle hoping to save her believed that if they could only create an opportunity for Mary and Elizabeth to meet, then it just might change Elizabeth’s mind and bring about a thaw in their relationship. But did that royal encounter ever occur?
A message from director Shintaro Mori
History tells us that Queen Elizabeth I regretted signing the order for Mary’s execution for the rest of her life. Why did this tragedy come to pass? In his play, Schiller depicts in vivid detail the inner conflict between reason and emotion these two women experienced. And it all takes place on a grand scale, against the backdrop of deadly scheming, popular uprisings, religious conflicts, and power struggles between England and Scotland that pushed Elizabeth and Mary along the path to their respective fates. I hope to breathe life into this thrilling and ruthless piece of human drama, creating political theatre that is relevant to our modern era.
Cast & Creative
Written by Friedrich Schiller
Script by Stephen Spender
Translated by Tetsuo Anzai
Directed by Shintaro Mori
Cast: Kyoko Hasegawa, Sylvia Grab, Ryosuke Miura, Eisaku Yoshida/
Akira Yamamoto, Tatsumi Aoyama, Izumi Aoyama, Daisuke Kuroda, Tomoya Hoshi,
Jyudai Ikeshita, Ryu Tominaga, Leo Bartner, Takano Suzuki, Ayaka Kanematsu/
Machiko Washio, Hajime Yamazaki, Takashi Fujiki
◎= Post-performance talk will be held.※Holders of tickets for the performance may attend.
■ = Stage Explanation for People with Visual Disabilities
Advance application required. Free. Before the 13:00 performance on Sun 9 February, we will explain aspects that are difficult to understand without seeing them, such as stage settings and costumes. People with a ticket for this performance may attend.
Voice Support for the Hearing Impaired (Advance Application Required/Free of Charge)
Earphones are available at the theatre lobby for lending out free of charge to hearing impaired audience members. To borrow an earphone, after purchasing your ticket, please apply to the theatre no later than three days before the performance in question.
Applications and inquiries: Tel. 03-5432-1526/Fax. 03-5432-1559/Email. email@example.com
A childcare service is normally available for performances staged at Setagaya Public Theatre and Theatre Tram for which advance tickets are sold.
Charge: ¥2,200 per child
Eligibility: Children aged over 6 months and up to 9 years of age
Applications: Tel. 03-5432-1526 Setagaya Public Theatre
You may reserve childcare services up to noon of the day 3 days before the desired reservation time, but when the number of children registered reaches capacity, applications will closed. So please make your reservation well in advance. Also, please consult with the theatre regarding children with special needs.
Subcontractor: Kids’ Room Tinker bell Sancha
Both Setagaya Public Theatre and Theatre Tram are equipped with wheelchair spaces to allow visitors to watch performances from their wheelchairs. However, as capacity is limited, use of wheelchair spaces is by reservation only.
Charge: 10% discount on the corresponding area ticket charge (plus up to one attendant free of charge)
Applications: Tel. 03-5432-1515 Theatre Ticket Centre
Wheelchair spaces may be reserved up to 19:00 on the day before the desired date, but when the number of reservations reaches capacity, applications will be closed. So please make your reservation well in advance. Also, for wheelchair users who prefer to watch the performance from a regular seat, the theatre will smoothly guide them too and from their seat. Please contact the theatre in advance to take advantage of this service.