Cate Garrison on Hannah Kennedy, Mary’s Handmaiden in Mary Stuart

In three sentences, describe the character you play in Mary Stuart.

Hannah Kennedy is Mary’s lady-in-waiting, nurse, servant, mother-figure, and friend. She is fiercely loyal and protective, almost to the point of denial of any kind of guilt on Mary’s part. She is also pragmatic and realistic, and tries to keep Mary’s feet firmly on the ground in her moments of romantic rapture. By the end, however, it is Mary’s strength that keeps Hannah from crumbling in the face of grief and injustice.

What is your favorite line in the play (yours or someone else’s) and why?

So many to choose from! I am going to pick a line/image from one of Mary’s speeches to Elizabeth, where she describes herself and her erstwhile hopes:

“…………Broken-winged,

All my ambitions creep along the ground.”

I love the image of Mary as a lapwing…a bird so often to be seen on the Scottish moors. And what is so compelling about this is, of course, that the lapwing only appears broken. It “acts” broken, to lead predators away from its nest, and is therefore astonishingly strong. Is Mary truly broken? Or is she still hiding something? We know by the end that she is strong. Is she so strong that she can even go to her grave without giving everything away? This question is very much the crux of the encounter from which this quote is taken, and not resolved until the very end of the play, if at all.

So it is a beautiful, but also a clever image.

What is the biggest challenge for you to overcome in this role/play?

As with the previous question…so many, so many! But for the purposes of this blog, I think I would isolate the notion that Hannah is both very like me and very UNLIKE me. I have to focus on her forthrightness, her down-to- earthness, her absolute will to appear…and be…strong, where Cate would probably give in and let go much sooner and more often. Of course Hannah does let go also, but she and I have a very different tipping point.

If you could choose one song that represents this show for you, what would it be?

Well, speaking from my character’s point of view, Hannah’s love for and loyalty to Mary is so powerful that, although it is NOT by any means a romantic or sexual love, the song/poem that comes to mind is of course Robbie Burns’ “ A Red, Red Rose.” I think many people felt this way about Mary, both before and after her death, and of course that is what Elizabeth could not tolerate.

Here is my favorite version, by Kenneth McKellar (I defy you not to weep!):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6Z8f42fF8M

O my Luve is like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melodie

That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in luve am I:

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:

I will luve thee still, my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only Luve

And fare thee well, a while!

And I will come again, my Luve,

Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

If you could dedicate your performance to someone, who would it be and why?

My father, Allan Nicol, was a Scotsman. Hannah’s idiolect is based on his. He died, unjustly and innocently, in a senseless road accident when I was a little girl. His absence in my life has been as real as any presence. I would dedicate all Hannah’s words, and love, to him.

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