When Mary Met John: Glory on Earth
Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre is about to present the world premiere of a new play with its roots in the very heart of the city's Old Town. Glory on Earth is Linda McLean's dramatic vision of August 1561, when Mary, Queen of Scots returned to Edinburgh for the first time since Scotland had moved away from Catholicism to Protestantism, under the eye of John Knox, the fiery minister of St Giles cathedral.
The story examines not just the personal conflicts between these two iconic figures of Scottish history, but also the political, religious and social turmoil which engulfed Edinburgh in the sixteenth century.
The Reformation of the Scottish church transformed Scotland, and laid the foundations for a whole new relationship between the people and their church, with ministers now preaching in the language of their congregation, and dismantling the power structures that the Catholic church had established.
The impact of the schism in the religious fabric of Scotland can still be felt in the country today, and one of the most enduring consequences of the rise of Knox's vision of faith is still embodied by Scotland's focus on the importance of education for all - it became a matter of law in Scotland for people to be able to read the Bible, now that it was available in Scots/English, which necessitated a requirement for all social classes to be literate.
Thus the emphasis on the education system in Scotland became a matter of priority, and one which continues to be an important feature of Scottish society - it is unlikely to be a coincidence that Scotland became a seat of learning for great thinkers, academics, philosophers, and scientists into the eighteenth century, the period known as the Scottish Enlightenment.
Visitors to the city can still walk in the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Scots, and John Knox today. St Giles' cathedral has a bronze statue of Knox, and in Parliament Square outside the church parking space number 23 is noted as 'the approximate site of the burial' of the Protestant reformer.
Meanwhile, visitors to the Palace of Holyroodhouse can still visit the private chambers and bedroom of Mary, as well as the birth room in Edinburgh Castle where she gave birth to her son James, a future monarch of Scotland and England.
The Lyceum's production - directed by artistic director David Greig, is a world premiere, and may shed a little more light on the tempestuous times in which it is set, putting the city of Edinburgh back at the front and centre of the world's stage.
Glory on Earth runs at the Royal Lyceum Theatre from 20 May - 10 June 2017.
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