Cast Revealed For MRS. PRESIDENT at Edinburgh Fringe

Performances run 2 to 27 August 2023.

By: Jun. 13, 2023
Cast Revealed For MRS. PRESIDENT at Edinburgh Fringe

The cast has been revealed for Mrs. President, a new US drama which has its international premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

By writer and artist John Ransom Phillips, the play re-examines the life and reputation of a woman consigned to history as one of America’s most reviled First Ladies. 

LeeAnne Hutchison takes the part of Mary with Christopher Kelly as celebrity photographer Mathew Brady – whose images of Abraham Lincoln helped win the Presidency. 

Hutchison is an American actress known for creating original roles in world premiere plays such as Tender Rain by Kyle Bass, Septimus and Clarissa by Ellen McLaughlin, and Full Bloom by Suzanne Bradbeer, with William Jackson Harper (see notes below).  

In Mrs. President she plays a woman tormented by the death of her children, grief stricken after witnessing her husband’s assassination and tormented by cruel accusations. 

Speaking about the part Hutchison said: “There's something in this play I can't quite touch. So much beneath the surface.  

“I love to feel there's a mystery calling me in a play, and I want to go towards that mystery like a moth to the light, not necessarily to solve it, but to be near it, to learn from it, and if I'm lucky, to illuminate it on stage so that we all get to see it together.  

“And, I seem over and over to be drawn towards women who are really on some kind of underworld journey, deep descents of grief and loss and sometimes rage. Women fighting to reclaim their agency and their power. This play has all of that, and that’s my playground!” 

Kelly is an American actor known for his performances in Tony-Award winning theatres across the US, including titular roles in Pericles, An Inspector Calls, Amadeus, The Cripple of Inishmaan, as well as Prince Hal in Henry IV parts 1 & 2, directed by Bill Alexander (RSC) as well as many other productions on stage and screen (see below).   

In Mrs. President his character is enlisted by Mary to recast her image but tensions rise as subject and artist clash over creative control. The play takes place in Brady’s studio where Mary traverses her life story. Under his focus, she is forced to explore who she truly is. 

Kelly said: “Capturing the relationship between any artist and subject feels elusive and I wonder if it’s possible to name the innate magnetism that draws them together. Is it even possible to say who plays which role?  

“When Mathew Brady and Mary Todd Lincoln share a space, they are reflections of their own time, of course, but when viewed through the modern lens of identity, projected image, and the struggle for freedom (or control) … what will they say about our time? I’m inspired to breathe into that mysterious space with LeeAnne, curious to discover the grey lines of humanity, however ineffable they may be.”   

Mrs President gives Mary her own voice for the first time. 

Phillips says: “Mary Lincoln is the most vilified First Lady in American history. But the story most people know is based on misinformation and misinterpretation. This was a woman in the grip of profound grief – who had buried three sons, saw the assassination of her husband and was betrayed by her remaining son.  

“Viewing her through modern eyes and through Mathew Brady’s outdated lens holds lessons for us. Controlling your image is precarious, and Mrs. President shows how hard it can be.” 

Director Lily Wolff adds: “Mary Lincoln haunts me. Her brilliance and depth of feeling meant she didn’t fit in the box society assigned her. Sadly we still perpetuate dehumanising narratives about this First Lady, failing to recognise the terrible losses she endured. Mary’s life was full of ghosts. 

“This play demands real sensitivity and we are incredibly fortunate to have LeeAnne Hutchison and Christopher Kelly, who vividly portray two characters facing extremes of human experience.” 

Mrs President plunges audiences back into an era which continues to affect American politics and the Culture Wars which divide contemporary society. 

The play introduces audiences outside the USA to a poignant and maligned historical figure. Born to a wealthy slave-owning Kentucky family Mary was a devoted supporter of her husband during his presidency and did much to boost public morale during the Civil War. 

She and her husband were sitting hand in hand at the theatre when he was shot in the head. She stayed with him during the hours in which he died. 

Her behaviour later became erratic, she was briefly confined by her remaining son to an asylum. Deeply depressed Mary attempted to take her own life and endured worsening physical health. Rather than being understood as vulnerable she was damned as “crazy”. 


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