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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Bloodline takes as its starting point the English Wars of Religion, and the restrictions placed upon Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots by her Protestant cousin Elizabeth I. Mary is held in genteel imprisonment by George Talbot and his wife Bess of Hardwick, one of the most interesting figures in 16th century England. These true life tales of court intrigue will captivate history buffs and laypeople alike. However, Linda Wilkinson's excellent script is stretched by trying to cover nearly twenty years of Elizabethan history, as well as the life stories of two of the most fascinating women of the age.

Louise Dumayne as Bess and Alistair Scott as George Talbot would benefit from a tighter framework in which to develop their relationship on stage – there is little to no attempt to age the characters from start to finish, although many years pass – but they carry the main roles well. However, they are let down by Jane Murphy's portrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots as petulant and immature, with a distractingly unplaceable accent that is certainly neither English nor Scottish. Richard Warrick's one-dimensional Robert Dudley seems completely superfluous, only appearing to provide exposition or historical details.

David Shields's set and Matt Hall's sound design combine to create a wonderful atmosphere in a small space, which does much to draw the audience in and keep them interested. The script, although dialogue-heavy, is engaging and well-paced, and moments of real talent shine through in the relationships between George, Bess and Mary – it is when details of the wider historical context are shoehorned in that the story flags. Scaling down the timeline and scope of Bloodline would greatly improve this drama.

- Colleen Patterson


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