The candlelit ambience of early 17th century Holyrood palace is created with some courtly music in the background as, dressed in gounie, cap and tapestry coat, King James VI of Scotland (Jimmy Chisholm) contemplates his future as King of England. Will he go or will he ‘gie it the swerve’?
His court is packed and ready to go and his lackeys are all out in the bawdy streets of Auld Reekie for a final fling before they head down south so there’s nobody at hand to answer his calls to bring the king wine. Nobody that is until William (Gavin Wright), whose been newly sacked for ‘ruining Ramsay’s damask’ by skaling claret ower his front, is caught red handed in his room with a candlestick in his sticky mitt.
What follows is a vividly imagined fantasy where royal meets republican five centuries ago but when they speak together with the sensibilities of modern times with William negotiating terms of service instead of displaying dumb obedience and James acting the clown and showing vulnerabilities before a subject. When they reverse roles, with William striking poses to mirror his monarch, they find that where for him the ‘crown weighs nothing at all’, for James it holds ‘the weight of a nation’.
It is written and performed in a mix of modern, urban and old Scots yet it is English that the monarch uses when he is at his most quiet and solemn and speaking of a lost love in Esmé Stewart, the Duke of Lennox. English is also used to write a love poem for his illiterate servant when James, in the style of Cyrano de Bergerac, become his scriever yet William strangely claims literacy towards the end of the play when James offers him a job as a cataloguing clerk. But in stereotypical style the toast ‘Get it doun ye! to drink the pauchled wine from the kitchen is in Scots.
The dual parts are warmly realised through terrific performances from the redoubtable Chisholm and the young Wright who, though affecting a gormless demeanour, is the embodiment of radicalism exposing home truths and revelations about James’ unpopularity. Both bring comedic skills to the drama where a too long gaze early on reveals the homosexual tendencies this King of a ‘grey skyed countrie’ that are strongly spurned later by the lad from Fleshmarket Close.
This comic platform that hints at the skewed relationship between the two nations may be flawed but hits the spot for an hour’s good entertainment at lunchtime.
Tue 5 – Sat 9 Apr, 1pm, Fri 8 Apr, 1pm & 7pm Age Recommend