Rona Munro's play James II: Day of the Innocents is the second in her trilogy, The James Plays, about three generations of Stewart kings who ruled Scotland in the fifteenth century. The play depicts a violent royal playground from the perspective of the child King.
The James Plays (also comprising James I: The Key Will Keep the Lock and James III: The True Mirror) were premiered on 10 August 2014 at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival in a co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland, the Edinburgh International Festival and the National Theatre of Great Britain. The production opened in the Olivier auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 10 September 2014.
In James II: Day of the Innocents, James II becomes the prize in a vicious game between Scotland’s most powerful families. Crowned when only six, abandoned by his mother and separated from his sisters, the child King is little more than a puppet. There is only one friend he can trust: William, the future Earl of Douglas. As James approaches adulthood in an ever more threatening world, he must fight to keep his tenuous grip on the crown while the nightmares of his childhood rise up once more.
In an introduction to the published script, Munro writes: 'In the delightful possibility that you are reading these plays with the view to giving them further production, here are some guidelines and warnings. All stage directions are suggestions only, you can take enormous liberties with those and emerge unscathed. Lines are very definitely not, tweak at your peril, you’ll find you’re pulling on a thread that could unravel all your plans. These texts represent a version of what was staged by the original production. Various solutions were found to represent some large moments and staging problems which are quite baldly stated in the text. As an example, we solved the problem of how to involve very small children in bloodshed and horrifying, murderous events in Day of the Innocents by using puppets. Feel free to find your own solutions.'
The premiere production was directed by Laurie Sansom and designed by Jon Bausor. The cast included Daniel Cahill as the Earl of Douglas, Ali Craig as Crichton, Blythe Duff as Isabella Stewart, Nick Elliott as John Stewart, Peter Forbes as Balvenie, Andrew Fraser as David Douglas, Sarah Higgins as Meg, Stephanie Hyam as Joan, Gordon Kennedy as Livingston, David Mara as Hume, Rona Morison as Annabella, Andrew Rothney as James II and Mark Rowley as William Douglas.