Mary Rose (3 stars)

Mary Rose

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 15 Nov

Fans of Lost will be familiar with the supernatural powers a (seemingly) deserted island can possess. However, it seems the US TV show’s creator JJ Abrams had an unlikely forerunner – Scottish playwright JM Barrie. While Barrie is more commonly associated with the giant of his plentiful corpus, Peter Pan, in Mary Rose, his exploration of the pains of growing up is as chillingly potent as ever.

When she marries at 18, Mary Rose seems permanently stuck in a state of pre-adolescence, a quality her parents believe the consequence of her mysterious 20-day disappearance on a remote Hebridean island during a childhood holiday. The unsettling atmosphere this creates between her parents and husband Simon is well-captured in Tony Cownie’s production, not least due to Malcolm Rippeth’s eerie lighting and Neil Murray’s versatile set design. There are some standout performances too: Perri Snowdon is captivating as Mary Rose’s at first jovial then grief-stricken husband, while Robin Laing excels as sensitive islander Mr Cameron.

Yet, for a play that’s a little over two hours long, some elements drag. Mary Rose’s second kidnap, for instance, is quickly anticipated and the lengthy, sentimental banter that takes place between her and Simon – meant to drive home the tragedy of their separation – becomes irritating rather than touching. And, while the exquisite dramatic timing means Mary Rose’s all-pervading ghostly presence never overshadows the intrinsically comic elements of the play, it’s unlikely to stir up a long overdue revival of Barrie’s lesser-known works.

Mary Rose

  • 3 stars

New production of JM Barrie's time-travelling Edwardian ghost story.

Mary Rose Pre-Show Talk

  • 3 stars

Dr Caroline Watt delivers a talk before tonight's performance.


1. john,edinburgh16 Nov 2008, 7:07pm2 stars Mary Rose Report

In what must be a short review, Yasmin manages to strike a tactful balance, yet there is no dodging the aptness of her criticisms. Some elements do most certainly drag; there is a sense of incompleteness about most elements of the production: the storytelling, unsure as it seems about the the interplay of illusion and reality and the passage of time; much of Mary Rose's delivery ('irritating', oh yes); the development of emotional sympathy for and between characters; the competent weighting of humour and seriousness: indeed what elements of theatre could one not list? I have spent more fulfilling evenings than this in the theatre and few less.

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