The James Plays Return

Jun 22 2015 | By More

Unique touring format for trilogy

Rona Munro’s immense historical trilogy: The James Plays  – about the Kings James I, II and III of Scotland – will return to the Festival Theatre in February 2016.

The trilogy, originally produced by the NTS with the National Theatre and the EIF, will open for previews on February 3, opening on Saturday 6, and a full trilogy again on Saturday 13 February.

James McArdle (James I). Photo: Manuel Harlan

James McArdle (James I). Photo: Manuel Harlan

Directed by Laurie Sansom, the production will tour to a further eleven Scottish and English venues over six months with a sequence of international dates also to be announced.

The trilogy will take on a suitably epic scale on tour. NTS has negotiated a unique schedule for the English leg, in which the company will stage the usual six performances in each venue, but only at the weekend: performing the complete trilogy on both Saturday and Sunday.

The original cast have all been invited to reprise their role, although this will be subject to availability and full casting is to be announced at a later date.

Saying that she has never had a better professional experience than during last year’s staging of the trilogy, Rona Munro said: “The only experience that could top that is to continue the adventure and to bring the plays home to Scotland again. I can’t wait to be back in that rehearsal room and back in front of that audience!”

The three plays: James I: The Key Will Keep The Lock, James II: Day of the Innocents, and James III: The True Mirror, can stand alone as individual scripts, each with its own distinct theatrical atmosphere. Together, they create a complex narrative of Scottish culture and nationhood.

sharp focus

The trilogy was reviewed strongly here on Æ, with Hugh Simpson saying: “The high energy and dramatic power of James I: The Key Will Keep the Lock brings history into sharp focus and provides a fitting start to Rona Munro’s trilogy”.

Simpson was less impressed by the quieter and more brooding Day of the Innocents, but said that the cheerfully modern The True Mirror provides “an energetic, occasionally puzzling conclusion” to the trilogy.

Writing of the three plays as a whole, however, he said: “The confidence, skill and sheer brass neck demonstrated in The James Plays mean that any drawbacks in individual parts are submerged in the feeling that this is an Event with a capital E.

“Not just in theatrical terms – although goodness knows they qualify on that score – but possibly culturally and historically too.”

The tour has been part funded by the Scottish government. Praising the 2014 performances as a highlight of the 2014 EIF, Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for  Culture, Europe and External Affairs pointed out that they were part funded through the Scottish Government Expo Fund.

She said: “This year we are pleased to invest in a touring production in order to take this fantastic set of plays to new audiences around Scotland and the UK, with international touring to follow.”


Festival Theatre Edinburgh, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Tickets on general sale July 6 (to Friends June 29)
James I – Wed 3 February 2016 (preview) and Wednesday 10 February 2016
James II  – Thurs 4 February 2016 (preview) and Thursday 11 February 2016
James III – Friday 5 February 2016 (preview) and Friday 12 February 2016
Opening Saturday 6 February: James I, II and III
Trilogy Day: Saturday 13 February 2016

Eden Court Theatre, Bishops Rd, Inverness IV3 5SA
Week of 28 March – performance schedule tbc

King’s Theatre, 297 Bath Street, Glasgow G2 4JN
Week of 4 April – performance schedule tbc

Royal & Derngate, Guildhall Road, Northampton NN1 1DP
Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 April 2016 – two trilogy days

The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays M50 3AZ
Saturday 23 and Sun 24 April 2016 – two trilogy days

Newcastle Theatre Royal, 100 Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6BR
30 April and Sun 1 May 2016 – two trilogy days

Sheffield Theatres, 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S1 1DA
Saturday 7 and Sun 8 May 2016 – two trilogy days

Norwich Theatre Royal, Theatre St, Norwich, Norfolk
Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 May 2016 – two trilogy days

Marlowe Theatre, The Friars, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2AS
Saturday 21 and Sun 22 May 2016 – two trilogy days

Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth PL1 2TR
Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May 2016 – two trilogy days

Curve, Leicester, 60 Rutland Street, Leicester LE1 1SB
Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 June 2016

Nottingham Theatre Royal, Theatre Square, Nottingham NG1 5ND
Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 June 2016

Dates at Norwhich and Birmingham still to be announced.


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