Judith Adams

The Bone Room

June 1998

Script winner of Susan Smith Blackburn Special Award presented in New York, 1999

Directed by Mark Stuart Currie and Janet Gordon
Designed by Olivia Gill
Choreography by Nike Imoru


A young Charles V of Flanders shipwrecks on the North coast of Spain on his way to visit his mother Juana, locked in a tower at Tordesillas, to claim the crown of Spain from her. He is captured and then entertained by a group of Picaros who with their mysterious “Queen” lead him through episodes of Spain’s history to a meeting with his mother, where a critical decision has to be made for his own future and that of the world.


“Adams’ 1996 play Burdalane – about a drunken Scottish gentrywoman left for dead by her husband on the island of St.Kilda – revealed her as a bit of a dab hand when it comes to resurrecting the lives of rejected women. The Bone Room – epic in scale, discursive in style – is staged as a perambulating “happening” where we, the spectators, are drawn into becoming accomplices, much like pilgrims, acolytes or tourists ogling some old historical artefact. The play attempts to give us history as the living, breathing reality that lies beneath our limited gaze and the “authorised” versions. The rewards are infinite and multilayered. I left the Young Vic feeling that I had been on a remarkable journey, and that I had indeed touched hands with other worlds.”

Carole Woddis, What’s On

“A mad reign in Spain. The walls are inscribed with Leonardo’s backwards handwriting; here is a wooden coffin, there a patch of earth, and above us – because this is a promenade production – hang white silken sheets that will flutter down to become the walls of the tower at Tordesillas. Swift cuts between scenes are consistently thrilling, and the actors, playing everything from popes to gravediggers, give hectic life to a stream of characters. I stayed enthralled.”

Jeremy Kingston, The Times

“For a play about bones, this one has plenty of guts; it gradually reveals itself to be a kaleidoscopic meditation on death, history and madness. It’s engrossing. The company have worked themselves to the bone: the result is anything but dry and dusty.”

Charles Godfrey-Faussett, Time Out

“Judith Adams’ play about Juana, the mad mother of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, whose 16th century domain stretched from Austria to the New World, interweaves remnants of myth, history and madness. It is a surreal pageant with some beautiful moments of poetry, but do not expect coherence. The play is a dream-like ragbag of relics and legends given voice.The play is fragmentary and diverse. But that is its charm.”

Alison Mercer, The Stage

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