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Killing actress to star in trilogy of plays about Scottish kings

Three Scottish kings - James I, II and III - will rule the stage at this year's Edinburgh International Festival, when a new trilogy of historical plays will be at the centre of its 2014 programme.

ROYAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Laurie Sansom, back left, Rona Munro and Sir Jonathan Mills announce the plays at Edinburgh Castle.
ROYAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Laurie Sansom, back left, Rona Munro and Sir Jonathan Mills announce the plays at Edinburgh Castle.

Written by Scottish playwright Rona Munro, one of the plays will star Sofie Grabol, best known for playing Sarah Lund in the TV show The Killing, as well as Blythe Duff and James McArdle. The plays will feature 20 actors in total.

The plays, which will go on to be staged at the National Theatre, London, after being premiered in Edinburgh in August, will be directed by Laurie Sansom, the new artistic director of the National Theatre Of Scotland.

Mr Sansom said the plays, which were presented to him in his first days at his post, were "just so good, they just had to be produced", and were "funny, bold, irreverent and mainly true".

"This should be a landmark in Scottish theatre," he said. "This is a major event and in 2014 it will be a truly explosive event."

He said: "We have found a way of staging all three plays in this momentous year for Scotland.

"It takes the 15th century politics of Scotland, a lesser known period in history, and makes them into contemporary plays: each is a stand alone, distinct play, but when they are put together they paint a complex picture of family and wars, about politics and passion."

Ms Munro said she has always been fascinated by the Medieval period and chose the three King James's as it marked the beginnings of the "struggle into modernity" in Scotland.

Describing herself as a "don't know" in the independence debate, she cannot vote in September's poll because she lives in London.

"Will it convince voters Yes or No? Not if I have done my job right. And I don't know if a piece of theatre can ever change anyone's mind," she said.

"It was a very turbulent time, there were questions of the relationship with England, does Scotland want to be with England, does it not? So there is a relevance, but, equally, I hope these plays can be looked at and hold up in 30 years."

The plays are called James I: The Key Will Keep The Lock; James II: Day Of The Innocents; and James III: The True Mirror.

Ms Grabol will portray Margaret Of Denmark, who was married to James III, who lived from 1452 to 1488.

Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre of Great Britain, said: "I could not be happier that we are collaborating for the first time with the NTS on three plays that explore Scottish history and Scottish identity, and stand comparison with the greatest historical dramas in the way they use ancient dynastic struggles to illuminate a vast array of current concerns."

The writer said she was delighted Ms Grabol could be in the plays and was a fan of her work.

Ms Grabol said: "When I first read James I: The Key Will Keep The Lock I was stunned because it is the kind of play you want to see, you want to be in the audience of, and you want to be in it.

"I have never done theatre in English and it will be a great challenge for me, but luckily for me Queen Margaret, who I am going to play, is Danish.

"As well as being about Scotland and national identity and all of that, the play is also about relationships, about men and women and about love."

Last year Sir Jonathan Mills was criticised in some quarters after he said the 2014 festival programme would not directly address the independence referendum, and although he said he knew in August last year that he planned to stage the James plays he did not mention them during the controversy.

Although the James plays are not directly about the referendum, they do address Scottish history and identity, he said.

Sir Jonathan said: "I was not going to respond by revealing my programme for this year in that way. I have a responsibility towards the programme."

He added: "Rona Munro's words not only leapt off the page, but got me leaping to the history books, and if that is not a recommendation, I don't know what is."

The production is being supported by the Scottish Government's Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.

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