Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, plays host to a spectacular theatrical experience next week, one which features a 20-strong cast presenting three exciting plays which can be seen as standalone plays on separate days, or as a trilogy on one day, just like your favourite box set.
Presented by The National Theatre of Scotland, the Edinburgh International Festival and the National Theatre of Great Britain, The James Plays are three plays about James I, II and III of Scotland, written by Rona Munro and directed by Laurie Sansom.
The plays take a look at events taking place in 15th-century Scotland and bring to life, in a wildly exciting and exhilarating way, the story of three generations of Stewart kings who ruled Scotland from 1406 to 1488.
Delivering the stories with a refreshing modern directness – so
expect strong language – the plays can be watched individually, but the best way to see them is one after the other.
Actor Peter Forbes, whose TV work includes EastEnders, Black Watch, The Bill, and Bad Girls, plays Balvenie, who is something of a bad boy, who appears in both the James I: The Key Will Keep the Lock and James II: Day of the Innocents plays.
“You don’t need to know anything about Scottish history to enjoy these plays,” said Peter.
“People are describing it as a Scottish version of Game of Thrones, but it’s much more interesting than that. Rona Munro wrote the plays because people, even historians, don’t know much about these three kings of Scotland. She has taken the facts then worked out, on a human level, what was going on, so what you get is a very human story of the kings and the people around them, set against the backdrop of major events that marked out their reigns.
“James I was a contemporary of Henry V, and Rona puts him in the opening scene on a battlefield in France and presents a very different take on Henry from Shakespeare’s heroic vision of him.
“People talk about the epic sweep of the plays, because they have great political statements, but they’re also full of humanity and humour.
“The character I play, Balvenie, starts out as a butt of people’s humour, but grows into a different person by the second play. I won’t say what happens to him, but he gets his comeuppance. People think of him as a bit of a villain, but he’s a very damaged human being because of how brutal life, politically and physically, was.”
Some members of the audience will be invited to watch the plays from the stage itself and share the performers’ perspective. These onstage seats, built into the set, are at the heart of the action, as an ensemble of actors takes the audience through a rarely explored period of history with playful wit and boisterous theatricality.
“It’s a bit like theatre in the round,” said Peter.
“It’s a way of creating intimacy and epic scale and draws the audience closer to the action. It makes the performers feel that the audience are very much involved and is an exciting way to see the plays.”
James I can be seen on Wednesday, March 30, at 7.30pm, and again on Saturday, April 2, at noon. James II can be seen on Thursday, March 31, at 7.30pm and at 4pm on April 2. James III can be seen at 7.30pm on Friday, April 1, and at 8.15pm on Saturday, April 2. Tickets can be bought for individual performances or pay £66 and see all three plays on the Saturday. Contact Eden Court Box Office on 01463 234234 or visit www.eden-court.co.uk