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Posted by : RodDungate on Mar 29, 2015 - 02:49 PM RSC
Stratford-Upon-Avon
THE JEW OF MALTA: Christopher Marlowe
RSC, The Swan

www.rsc.org.uk
Runs: 2h 30m, one interval; in rep till 08 09 15

Review: Alexander Ray Edser

A delicious revival that chimes with our times.

Once again the RSC offers us a valuable chance to see a rarely performed masterpiece from the Elizabethan-Jacobean repertoire. Marlowe’s play is a deeply satirical comedy, as powerful today as it must have been subversive – not to say dangerous – originally.

It’s all the more interesting when (as the RSC does) it sits alongside THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Shakespeare’s is a beautiful play, but it is built upon anti-Semitism. Marlowe’s is a wildly plotted dark comedy; it is built upon the notions that religion is hog-wash and the Christians who rule in Jesus’ name are a pretty nasty duplicitous bunch.

It’s a clever – a brilliant – construction. The Christians rule Malta, in hock to the Islamic Turks. The Christians need the Jews because they need their money to ply the Turks. When Jewish Barabas won’t give his money to them they steal it anyway and (in Justin Audibert’s deft production) give him a good kicking for good measure. The Jewish Barabas is set up very early on as the victim. Marlowe ensures our sympathy stays with him till well into the play’s final furlong.

Jasper Britton (Barabas) fleet of foot, physically and metaphorically, drives the roller-coaster along. This is a highly skilled performance, though the skill is transparent. There’s something of the ‘bloke on the street’ about this eponymous anti-hero. A strong ensemble is in evidence, rightly painting their characters with broad brush strokes for this isn’t a play about subtle character development. It’s about energetically showing the hypocrisy within our world; the energy is the anger at the enormity.

Director Audibert has the hang of the play. He and his team bring it zinging to life. What a bleak icy picture is painted at the end; and how warm is the audience response.

Andy Apollo - Don Lodowick
Sheila Atim - Attendant
Jasper Britton - Barabas
Guy Burgess - First Knight
Beth Cordingly - Bellamira
Geoffrey Freshwater - Friar Barnadine
Marcus Griffiths - Calymath
Rhiannon Handy - Attendant
Simon Hedger - Merchant
Julian Hoult - Merchant
Matthew Kelly - Friar Jacomo
Annette McLaughlin - Katherine
Lanre Malaolu - Ithamore
Matthew Needham - Pilia-Borza
Steven Pacey - Ferneze
Richard Rees - Martin del Bosco
Colin Ryan - Don Mathias
Nav Sidhu - Callapine
Catrin Stewart - Abigail
Gabby Wong - Abbess
Director - Justin Audibert
Designer - Lily Arnold
Lighting - Oliver Fenwick
Music - Jonathan Girling
Sound - Claire Windsor
Movement - Lucy Cullingford
Fights - Kev McCurdy
 
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