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The James Plays

Three new plays about James I, II and III of Scotland, written by Rona Munro and directed by Laurie Sansom, to premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in August.

James I: The Key Will Keep The LockJames II: Day of the Innocents, and James III: The True Mirror – are a new cycle of history plays by award-winning playwright Rona Munro and directed by Laurie Sansom, Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Scotland, which are to be presented in an unprecedented co-production by the National Theatre of Scotland, Edinburgh International Festival and the National Theatre of Great Britain, during the Edinburgh International Festival in August and at the National Theatre in London from September to October.

This vividly-imagined trilogy brings to life three generations of Stewart Kings who ruled Scotland in the tumultuous fifteenth century. Each play stands alone as a unique vision of a country tussling with its past and future, with its own distinct theatrical atmosphere. Viewed together they create a complex and compelling narrative on Scottish culture and nationhood.

Audiences are invited to join a cast of extraordinary characters in the Edinburgh Festival Theatre and the Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre in these fast paced stories that bring to life Scotland’s past through the gripping stories of the men, women and children who once ruled it. 

An ensemble of 20 actors, including James McArdle, Blythe Duff and Sofie Gråbøl - star of Danish TV series The Killing - will take the audience through a rarely-explored period of history with playful wit and boisterous theatricality, and should prove a landmark of Scottish drama in a remarkable year.

Tickets will be on sale to the public for the Edinburgh International Festival on 29 March and on 19 March for Friends and Patrons of the Festival.

Booking dates for the National Theatre of Great Britain are to be announced.

The full programme for Edinburgh International Festival 2014 will be announced on Tuesday 18 March.

Watch an interview with Sofie Gråbøl about her role in James III: The True Mirror

About the plays

James I: The Key will Keep The Lock

By Rona Munro, directed by Laurie Sansom

Bold and irreverent storytelling explores the complex character of this colourful Stewart king – a poet, a lover, a law-maker but also the product of a harsh political system.

James I of Scotland was captured when he was only 13 and became King of Scots in an English prison. 18 years later he's finally delivered back home with a ransom on his head and a new English bride. He's returning to a poor nation, the royal coffers are empty and his nobles are a pack of wolves ready to tear him apart at the first sign of weakness.  But James has his own ideas about how to be a king and, after 18 years, he finally has the chance to realise them. James is determined to bring the rule of law to a land riven by warring families, but that struggle will force him to make terrible choices if he is to save himself, his Queen and the crown.

Cast includes: James McArdle (James I), Blythe Duff (Isabella), Cameron Barnes, Daniel Cahill, Sarah Higgins, Rona Morison, Mark Rowley and Fiona Wood.

James II: Day of the Innocents

By Rona Munro, directed by Laurie Sansom

In the second of Rona Munro’s dynastical trilogy, innocent games merge with murderous intent in a violent royal playground of shifting realities and paranoia.

An eight year old boy is crowned King of Scots. Soon James II is the prize in a vicious game between the country’s most powerful families, for whoever has the person of the boy king, controls the state. Seen through a child's eyes, the Scottish court is a world of monsters with sharp teeth and long knives.

Growing up alone, abandoned by his mother and separated from his sisters, James II is little better than a puppet. There is only one relationship he can trust, his growing friendship with another lonely boy, William, the future Earl of Douglas. The two boys cling together as they try to survive the murder and mayhem that surrounds them.

But the independence and power of young adulthood brings James into an even more threatening world. He has to fight the feuding nobles who still want to control him, he has to make brutal choices about the people he loves best, he has to struggle to keep his tenuous grip on the security of the crown and on his sanity....while the nightmares and demons of his childhood rise up again with new and murderous intent. 

Cast includes: Cameron Barnes, Daniel Cahill, Blythe Duff, Sarah Higgins, Rona Morison, Mark Rowley and Fiona Wood.

James III: The True Mirror

By Rona Munro, directed by Laurie Sansom

Like James III himself, the final instalment of Rona Munro’s extraordinary trilogy is colourful, brash and unpredictable. It turns its eye on the women of the royal court, both lowly and high born, who prove to be its beating heart.  Queen Margaret, married to James III is played by Sofie Gråbøl, most known to audiences as Sarah Lund in the Danish TV series, The Killing.

James III of Scotland. A man who's irresistible, charismatic, a man of fashion and culture. A man with big dreams ...and no budget to realise any of them.

Obsessed with grandiose schemes that his nation can ill-afford and his restless nobles will no longer tolerate, James is loved and loathed in dangerously unstable proportions. But Scotland's future will be decided by the woman who loves him best of all, his resourceful and resilient wife, Queen Margaret of Denmark.

As dreams battle brutal realities and the nation thunders dangerously close to regicide and civil war, her true love and clear vision offer the only protection that can save a fragile monarchy and rescue a struggling people. But the cost for Margaret herself may be too high.

Cast includes: Sofie Gråbøl (Queen Margaret), Cameron Barnes, Blythe Duff, Sarah Higgins, Rona Morison, Mark Rowley and Fiona Wood.

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