Review: Mother’s Daughter (Soulpepper)

The daring third installment of the Queenmaker series explores the rise of Bloody Mary

Soulpepper has mounted the third play in writer Kate Hennig’s Queenmaker Trilogy, Mother’s Daughter is an enthralling and tense historical drama on stage at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

This play checks all the boxes for me: the writing is tight and Hennig weaves an interesting and engaging story with these characters from the Tudor era. The performances are great across the board and the technical aspects and set design are certainly impressive. It’s a great show, and I do recommend it.

The third Queenmaker installment, these plays “examine the Tudor period through the eyes of its women.” Mother’s Daughter follows Mary I of England, the first female ruler of England, as she ascends to power amid political chaos following the death of her younger brother.

Having reviewed The Virgin Trial, I did find that Mother’s Daughter did not resonate with me in the same way. It is firmly my less-preferred of the two Queenmaker plays I’ve seen. While I will readily say that it is a good show, it did not stand out to me the same way that the previous Queenmaker play did. That said, most of my criticisms are nitpicks.

This show boasts solid performances across the board. Hennig’s writing is impressive in that it gives each character their moments to shine. I’m most impressed by Shannon Taylor’s performance as Mary and Jessica B. Hill is delightfully enigmatic as Bess (Elizabeth I). Andrea Rankin’s stoic Jane Gray is quite heartbreaking to watch.

Despite that excellent performance from Taylor, I feel that I struggled to sympathize with the character of Mary through most of the play. The story hinges, in part, on Mary being the lesser sibling to her sister Elizabeth. Taylor does do a great job depicting this struggle; but I do find the character to be a bit frustrating because of this. 

A lot of the comedic relief comes from Hennig’s anachronistic use of modern language. Mary often responds to tense situations with expletives, which adds welcome levity. My guest commented that this could have easily been overdone, but was used sparingly enough that it’s always welcome.

At first glance, I find the set intriguing, two levels with bright red LED lights that outline the stage. They fade to white throughout the show which kind of feels like an ad for the next iPhone. That said, the way they make use of this set-up is quite neat. When an imagined character walks onstage, for instance Mary’s mother Catalina/Catherine of Aragorn (Fiona Byrne), the lights crackle and white noise fills the theatre.

Mother’s Daughter is a fascinating new historical drama boasting great performances and writing. I recommend catching it this winter season.

Details:

  • Mother’s Daughter is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane) until February 9, 2020.
  • Performances are at 7:30 PM, with weekend matinees at 1:30 PM.
  • Tickets range from $25 – $98, with student discounts and comps.
  • Tickets can be purchased online or in person at the box office.
  • Audience Advisory: This performance contains loud noises and strobe-lights as well as scenes of violence.
  • Run Time: Approximately 2 hours, with a 20 minute intermission.

Photo of Shannon Taylor and Fiona Byrne by Dahlia Katz

One thought on “Review: Mother’s Daughter (Soulpepper)”

  1. The worst play I have ever seen in my life. Boring as hell. Terrible profane dialogue. Costume and set design were absent.

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