Hundreds of years before women were given the right to vote, two women were the reigning monarchs of England and Scotland. They’re two of the most powerful women in British history – Queen Elizabeth I and Mary of Scotland.
Mary was forced to abdicate the throne in 1567 in favour of her one-year-old son, and fled to England and the protection of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.
But, having previously claimed Elizabeth’s throne as her own, tensions were rife and she was confined in various castles and houses for 18 months before being executed.
In 1987 Scottish writer Liz Lockhead wrote a play about the two women, Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off.
It’s being performed by HumDrum at The Spring, Havant from March 20-24 and director Sam Sampson says: ‘It’s seen as a Scottish classic from a Scottish perspective. Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth is just so different and it’s not a typical view. It’s a Tudor drama, but it’s the kind of production where you can let your mind go creatively. You’re not bound by a box set or in any kind of traditional way.’
The play confronts the political and religious expectations of the two queens in the 16th century.
Telling it from a woman’s perspective, they may have ruled the country but they were heavily controlled by the men around them.
Sam adds: ‘Both Mary and Elizabeth are seen from completely different angles. It’s the whole history of the Tudor/Stuart dynasty and how these powerful women were manipulated. The men made them say and do things they didn’t want to do.’
Each queen’s hand maiden is played by the other queen in the production (Mary is Elizabeth’s hand maiden and vice versa) as Sam wanted to show that, actually, the two cousins were very close to each other.
He says: ‘They change characters and it’s supposed to show that these woman had quite a close friendship and knew exactly what the other one was doing, especially with a network of spies. I’ve also set it very much in the modern day. Elizabeth’s clothes are inspired by Cyndi Lauper because how the words are written she is much more manic.
‘But Mary is dressed very plain in a 1960s-style dress and her hair pulled back. She’s quite an Audrey Hepburn-style character.’
n Tickets cost £7 to £8 from The Spring, Havant on (023) 9247 2700 or go to thespring.co.uk.