Mary’s Medicine tells the true story of half Jamaican, half Scottish nurse Mary Seacole a pioneer of controversial holistic medicinal practices during Victorian England. So controversial that the famed Lady of the Lamp, Florence Nightingale, who Seacole personally requested to join the nursing core, denied Seacole ultimately for the color of her skin, going even farther to lobby Queen Victoria herself, in order to shut down Mary’s practice on the front lines of the Crimean war. Nightingale succeeded. But in the end, it was the hundreds of thankful soldiers who Seacole healed in the War that projected her star far beyond the rigid confines and prejudices of Victorian society. In the end, she became a national hero, with accolades from the Queen as well, and written into the history books for all time.
Writer/director Matthew Robinson has written a loving and rather linear story. Elucidated as a conversation between two modern nurses reading from Seacole’s actual autobiography from a balcony above the stage, the scenes of Seacole’s life play out below.
Lead actress Amy Argyle is stunningly perfected in her role as Seacole and drives the orchestration of this play in its entirety. From a modified Victorian stoicism to the ins and outs of her Jamaican accent and spontaneous humor, to her uber polite but fierce face-off with Nightingale, she is commendably delightful and believable in every way.
Additionally wonderful performances by Robby Devillez (Horatio & John), Twon Pope (Edward Grant – Seacole’s brother), and Emily Martz (Florence Nightingale).
Creative staging but difficult. The use of the balcony for the set up of the story is a fantastic use of space. But the two women nurses have almost no vocal projection from the very high up position and are too fast paced in their line delivery. We lose what should be the cliff-hanger impact of their part of this play. Otherwise, beyond the occasional clunky transition, it’s a rich and important piece to experience.
Overall, a beautifully crafted ode to a truly great woman.