The Passion of Mary is Something to Lose Your Head Over

It’s the night before your execution. What do you do – what can you do – but think back on your life and the major decisions you’ve made? The Passion of Mary, written by Edmonton’s Annette Loiselle, is a frenzied exploration of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.

This 90-minute, two-woman show is one of the best I’ve seen in the last year. The versatility of Annette Loiselle (Mary) and  Siân Williams (Queen Elizabeth, Darnley, Riccio, Bothwell, Midwife, and the Wet Nurse) was absolutely incredible. The play could have easily been one woman’s reflections on her life, but instead it was a series of flashbacks – like skipping around the most meaningful moments in one’s life. One minute Loiselle was joyfully playing with her 10 month old son, the next, she was yelling at the guards keeping her locked alone in her cold chamber to stop making so much noise.

While Loiselle played Mary at different times in her life, Williams – with her six roles – took the play to a place it couldn’t have gone as a one-woman show. When I interviewed Annette Loiselle a few weeks ago, she mentioned she was glad it wasn’t a one-woman show, as it was originally conceived to be. I now see why. The Passion of Mary is an exploration of a life lived by following your heart and making decisions for love – doing what feels right, regardless of what anyone says or thinks. The many roles that Williams took on allowed the audience to experience Mary’s intense joy – her lust for her first husband, or her love for her son James – and her deep regrets – marrying her first husband, or not being able to breastfeed James. The interactions between Loiselle and Williams, in whichever role she was playing, took The Passion of Mary from being an autobiography or a history of a dead queen to being the story of a woman.

But all of the sudden changes – from conversations with Elizabeth, to flashbacks, to Mary pacing her chamber, waiting for her execution – would have been incredibly confusing if not for the light design. Bretta Gerecke’s use of different colours of light let the audience easily realize what point in Mary’s life the action was taking place, while also setting the mood for that scene. A warmly-lit scene, bathed in sunshine-like light meant that we would be experiencing one of the times in Mary’s life that she had no regrets attached to, while a white light showed a flashback that Mary wished had played out differently. These lighting changes, while helping the audience figure out the time period in Mary’s life, also helped us figure out who Williams was portraying – and how Mary ultimately saw them the night before her execution. Since neither of the actors ever left the stage, the cues the lighting gave the audience were incredibly helpful, and made the play seem as though it was on a much grander scale than being a two-woman show.

More than anything, The Passion of Mary is proof that plays about historical characters can be anything but biographies. The Passion of Mary opened up the life of a Queen that most people know very little about, and let us experience her life the way she did (or may have) – from the incredible highs, to the desolate lows.

The Passion of Mary runs Sept. 6 – 16. Evening performances are at 8:00 pm. Matinees are September 9 and 16 at 2:00 pm. Check out the performance schedule on! Tickets range from $13 – $26, depending on the date and time of performance.

20% of the proceeds of the September 8 show will go to help fundraise for SkirtsAFire Festival – a new arts festival running March 7 – 10, 2013.

– Jenna Marynowski

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