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Folk Musician Laura Marling Gets Practical & Political

The British songwriter turns to the theater for the London production of 'Mary Stuart.'
Laura Marling at the Almeida Theatre in London, in November.
Laura Marling Source: ANDREW TESTA/PANOS FOR NEWSWEEK

Laura Marling, one of Britain’s finest songwriters, is sitting in the window of the Almeida Theatre café in north London. Which in itself is a surprise: “I always felt theater was a bit above my head,” she says, her small, bright face looking somewhat amused. “I’ve sat through a lot of very boring plays in my time, and I thought theater can be a bit too…theater-y. It can just get a bit too far up its own theater bum.”

Marling, 26, is here to tell me how she came to be involved in a new production of Mary Stuart, Friedrich Schiller’s play from 1800 about the last days of Mary, Queen of Scots. The show has already gained attention for the conceit of having its lead actors, Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams, trade the roles of Stuart and her cousin, Elizabeth I, based on the nightly flip of a coin. With the addition of Marling’s original score, it’s an even more attractive prospect.

Over the course of five albums, Marling has earned

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