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Nathan Fayard

Maria Stuart at the Union Theatre

The new production by Scary Little Girls playing at the Union Theatre loses focus and confuses audience with a barrage of bizarre and overly abstract visuals.

This theatre company claim to support the stories of obscure characters and the artistic work of women, but seemed more concerned with being new and strange simply for the sake of being odd.

They sacrificed the story they were telling in order to concentrate on pointless and vaguely unsettling antics like random attacks of strobe lights, techno music, and slow motion movements that reminded me more of the worst scenes of a Wachowski Brothers film than of a play.

Despite all of the chaos of their production, the quality of Friedrich Schiller's original work came through, and was, in fact, performed admirably by a surprisingly talented cast. The story focuses around Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth II in the time leading up to Mary's execution, and it is quite well written.

I found myself dumbfounded, stuck between riotous laughter and perplexed gawking when I had to watch such obviously competent actors managing to keep straight faces while doing ‘the robot' in period costumes.

At least it can be said that the entire cast had their bizarre dances and movements choreographed fairly well, with only a few noticeable missteps.

Amid the flood of inane oddities, the Girls did produce one quite interesting interpretation. During a scene in which Queen Elizabeth listens to three different points of view from her three advisors, they actually shift the scene. They turn it round in front of the audience like something out of Les Mis.

The only catch is they don't have a revolving stage. After each minister finished speaking, the lights would go down, and the actors would grab the props, a simple job as they only consisted of a table and three chairs, and place them in precisely the same order, but rotated 90 degrees.

Or at least, that's how it should have worked. Even this ingenious kernel of an idea was complicated, with the scene carrying on and the whole thing falling apart. Some of the visuals they presented were interesting, and the techniques the Girls employed to accomplish some scenes were laudable, but overall the production seemed to be nothing more than an attempt to be “fresh” without any real aim or substance behind it.

• Maria Stuart is at the Union Theatre until the 5th of March

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