Mary’s Hand

Mary’s Hand is a new music theatre project about the life and reign of Queen Mary I.

It’s a little-known fact that Mary loved to gamble at dice and cards. Over a game – in which the audience gets to choose the next card to be turned – Mary reflects upon the influences and events in her life: her father Henry VIII, her mother Katherine of Aragon, her Catholic faith, as well as the perceived causes of her troubles; her half-brother Edward VI, half-sister Elizabeth I, the ever-stronger Protestant faith, and her desperate desire for a child. Above all, Mary was driven by the wish to be a good monarch and her deep conviction that she needed to restore England to to the Church of Rome. Her marriage to the Catholic Philip of Spain promised to resolve many of these issues at a stroke, but Mary had played her cards badly and paid a high public and personal price.

With words by Di Sherlock (The Ubiquitous Woman) and music by Martin Bussey, (Through a Glass Darkly, The Windhover), Mary’s Hand will be scored for mezzo, cello, trumpet and oboe doubling cor anglais. The first performances of Mary’s Hand will be in the summer of 2018.

Queen Mary 1. Courtesy of Society of Antiquaries of London

We are now preparing the production, and a key element of the show is Mary’s dress. This item is costume, set and prop and will be a replica of the dress in Mary’s portrait painted shortly after her coronation in 1553.

It is important to us that the dress and undergarments should be as historically accurate as possible, both in terms of appearance and construction, while accommodating the additional requirements of ongoing performances. We are preserving some aspects of the portrait’s painterliness as well as exploring different sewing and construction techniques. We are also re-creating key items of jewellery shown in the portrait image.

Our costume experts are graduates of the masters course in Costume Design for Performance at the London College of Fashion and are treading an imaginative line between historical archaeology and creative artistry. Here’s Andie Scott, our designer, talking about  how she was able to work out key details about the dress from a different version of the same image.


Broody Mary