The James Plays, National Theatre, review: The most-elating things you'll see all year

The Killing's Sofie Grabol gives a superlative performance

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The Independent Culture

Laurie Sansom's thrillingly authoritative production of Rona Munro's brilliant, myriad-minded and mood-ranging trilogy of plays about three Stewart kings in the turbulent 15th  century opened at the Edinburgh Festival during the run-up to the referendum on Scottish independence. 

The Festival can have a hyper-inflationary effect on star-ratings and so I was prepared to be faintly disappointed by this event which is part of the Travelex £15 season (the plays are running in rep in the Olivier and can be seen together in mighty, all-day marathons). 

But, if anything, I think those rave reviews were a touch restrained. Viewed now in London, after the “no” vote, the project – a thumpingly successful co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland and the NT of Great Britain – looks (to the point of glorious parody) like the very embodiment of the “Better Together”  spirit. 

Which means that there is an intrinsically ironic “connect” between the means of production/transmission and the matter for debate in the trilogy.

The first play turns on Scotland's subordinate position to England; all three examine the chronic psychological effects on self and family of a Scottish monarch's inherently dangerous relationship with his lords. 

Superlative performances (including that of Sofie The Killing Grabol), eloquent crucible-like in-the-round design) and extremely canny deployment of anachronism. 

The sexy kilts-with-attitude company version of “Don't You Want Me, Baby?” is the most elating thing I've seen all year. Go.

To October 29; 020 7452 3000

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