Review James III: The True Mirror, National Theatre
James III feels the most contemporary and sexy of the three James Play. There is pre-performance entertainment, the cast dancing to folk covers of popular tunes (Lorde's Royals making its second stage appearance this year) so make sure you get to your seat early.
The fun and frolics and flying kilts set the tone of James III's (Jamie Sives) court; he is a King that likes the arts, entertainment, fine wine, women and men, everything except his kingly duties. And that is the tension in this play in a plot that has shades of Shakespeare's Richard II.
James is on a journey to self destruction as he angers the rich noblemen who sit in his court. He is vain, narcissistic, jealous and dismissive. He turns up late to Parliament inappropriately dressed and arranges himself on his thrown like a petulant teenager. He is jealous of his son's youth and is cruel as a result. He also takes it out on his wife Margaret (Sophie Grabol of The Killing fame) whom he he wants all for himself.
But, for all that Jamie Sives gives the King a cheekiness and a sense of fun that make for a lovable if vexing character. When vanity leads him to employing a choir to follow him around and lighten up the dull moments you can't help but laugh and secretly be envious that he's done it (because you would if you could).
Unlike Richard II who believed that divine right would win the day, James seems aware that he is leading himself to his downfall, he's just going to have as much fun as he can en route.
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