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REVIEW - James V: Katherine by Rona Munro

Updated: May 1

25 April 2024

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

⭐⭐⭐⭐


James V Katherine by Rona Munro at Glasgow Tron Theatre. Photo by Lisa in the Theatre

The celebrated James Plays by award-winning writer Rona Muno are set during the reigns of Scotland's generations of Stewart Kings. The latest instalment, James V: Katherine focuses on a little-known female historical figure, Katherine Hamilton and depicts events during the early stage of the Scottish Reformation.


Sister to Scotland's first martyr of the Reformation, Patrick Hamilton, and wife of the protestant Captain of Dunbar Castle, Katherine was subjected to the reforming doctrines via the powerful men in her life. in James V: Katherine, Rona Munro has given Katherine a voice of her own as we take a peek into a particularly turbulent period of her, and of Scotland's, life during the early 1500's.


This new co-production by Raw Material Arts and Capital Theatres is purposefully touring to smaller theatre venues across Scotland this spring with the aim to keep the play intimate and ensure the actors are close to the audience. Following its world premier at Capital Theatres Studio in early April, 'Katherine' has now arrived at the wonderful Glasgow Tron Theatre, and it looks stunning.


A dark set lit by flickering candles and the heady smell of incense greet the audience as they enter the auditorium. It's immediately interesting and intriguing. The set design by Becky Minto is enhanced by impeccable lighting from Derek Anderson. The flames rise and fall to cleverly represent that popular 16th century pastime of burning people at the stake. It's very well done.


Sean Conor, Catriona Faint and Alyth Ross in James V: Katherine by Rona Munro. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

The play runs 1 hour 25 minute straight through and it's absorbing from beginning to end. The story starts and ends in optimal places: Not a minute of stage time nor dialogue is wasted - there's no filler here - and yet we are presented with a complete, satisfying story arc in the relatively short running time.


Powerful and vivid, the spellbinding story is brought to life by four captivating actors, Catriona Faint, Sean Connor, Benjamin Osugo and Alyth Ross.


Catriona Faint shines in the lead role of Katherine. A commanding yet sympathetic performance, her every action is considered and delivered with conviction. So impressive. Alyth Ross is fantastic in her professional stage debut, but Benjamin Osugo's Patrick Hamilton was a little stilted and unperturbed for someone who was meant to be so passionate that he would die for his beliefs.


In the performance of his life, Sean Connor excels here, first as a clergyman (with an inspired modern costume) and then later as swaggering King James V himself. Conor's charisma leaps off the stage; I could not take my eyes off him. His performance is so exhilarating and powerful, I firmly believe him to be one of the finest actors of his generation. Pure quality.


Sean Conor and Catriona Faint in James V: Katherine by Rona Munro. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

Directed by Orla O’Loughlin, James V: Katherine not only taught me about real historical figures I was not familiar with, but it beautifully brings to life a period of Scottish history that is both fascinating and horrifying. The play cleverly presents events that did happen and that changed Scotland forever, but it does it with style. There's also an unexpected love story and quite a bit of sharp humour in the mix. It's a thoroughly enjoyable, visually impressive look at 16th century Scotland, staged for a modern audience. Definitely worth your time.


⭐⭐⭐⭐


James V: Katherine is at Glasgow Tron Theatre until Saturday 27th April 2024 and then continues on tour across Scotland. Find all the venues and dates here.


📸 production photos: Mihaela Bodlovic


Read reviews of two other productions starring Sean Connor that I loved last year here:


 

James V: Katherine Cast


Benjamin Osugo

Alyth Ross


Creative team

Writer: Rona Munro

Director: Orla O’Loughlin

Designer: Becky Minto

Composer / Sound Designer: Danny Krass

Lighting Designer: Derek Anderson


Sean Conor, Catriona Faint, Benjamin Osugo and Alyth Ross in James V: Katherine by Rona Munro. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

 

James V: Katherine 2024 Tour Dates


Raw Material and Capital Theatres present

James V: Katherine

James V Katherine by Rona Munro at Glasgow Tron Theatre. Photo by Lisa in the Theatre

Capital Theatres’ The Studio, Edinburgh

Previews – 5, 6, 9 April

10 – 20 April 2024 

 

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

25 – 27 April

 

Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

30 April – 4 May

 

Mull Theatre, Tobermory

7 & 8 May

 

Eden Court, Inverness

10 & 11 May

 

Dunoon Burgh Hall

13 & 14 May

 

Birnam Arts Centre

17 & 18 May

 

Byre Theatre, St Andrews

21 & 22 May

 

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling

24 & 25 May

 

Eastgate Theatre, Peebles

28 & 29 May

 

Melrose Corn Exchange

31 May & 1 June


 

James V: Katherine by Rona Munro review, Tron Theatre Glasgow, April 2024. Catriona Faint, Sean Connor.


🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange. Neither the venue nor show has a say in what I write. I'm completely independent and invites have no impact on my analysis or star ratings.



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Lisa in the theatre. Scottish theatre reviewer. UK theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.

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