MEASURE FOR MEASURE: William Shakespeare
RSC, THE SWAN, Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: 3 hrs, one interval, till
Review: Rod Dungate, 23.11.11
What a shame.
MEASURE is a notoriously tricky play. Its quirks and anomalies require from a director a firm hand, strong vision and a robust imagination.
Roxana Silbert demonstrates in her production a lot of imagination but fails to exercise a clarity of vision that would mould the play into a coherent whole. It’s as if, moment by moment, ideas have occurred and been incorporated because they have seemed – well, good ideas. But when these fail to add up, when they fail to link into an enlightening through path, to be good ideas isn’t good enough.
Actors, for the most part, are left struggling to truly inhabit their clothes as they are to inhabit their world – or even understand what their world is.
At the centre of MEASURE stands the Duke. A basically good, but bookish and ineffectual sort of chap we understand, who believes his state to be falling under the influence of licentiousness. He goes away, leaving his kingdom in the hands of his Deputy, Angelo; this is a chance for the law to be visited afresh and applied more vigorously by this moral, puritanical even, young man.
Raymond Coulthard’s portrayal of the Duke appears to undercut the traditional view outlined above for the Duke seems jokey and self-consciously self-aware. This is fine except that in the serious moments, the Duke is all seriousness. The performance veers from the encompassing caring to the archly camp; it’s left to wander all over the place. By the end of the play we’re left wishing a bit more attention had been paid to what was being said and a bit less to irritating conjuring tricks. No wonder the country’s in a mess.
Jodie McNee’s Isabella seems like a nice girl – and she’s certainly passionate. But this portrayal lacks any touch of the fundamentalism that drives Isabella. In a similar way, Jamie Ballard’s Angelo is bad, but we don’t sense his connection with lust, an emotion so strong it destroys him.
It’s this continuous lack of characters’ real connection with themselves and their world that ensures the production is doomed. The first brothel scene, for instance, decked out in S and M gear, is simply embarrassing; actors wear a range of chains, studs, harnesses, leather and gimpy masks – but they might as well be wearing outfits bought in Primark.
Amidst the muddle, Mark Quartley’s Claudio is beautifully naïve, though could do with spending time working out what he’s saying, and Joseph Kloska’s Pompey is most entertaining. Geoffrey Beevers’ Escalus is lovely – warm, not at home with the new order, but most of all, committed, human and we believe he believes every word he says.
Duke Vincentio: Raymond Coulthard
Escalus: Geoffrey Beevers
Angelo: Jamie Ballard
Lucio: Paul Chahidi
Mistress Overdone: Annette McLaughlin
Pompey: Joseph Kloska
Provost: Bruce Alexander
Claudio: Mark Quartley
Friar Peter: Sam Marks
Isabella: Jodie McNee
Francisca: Teresa Banham
Elbow: Ian Midlane
Palace servant: Laura Darrall
Juliet: Sarah Ovens
Mariana: Catherine Hamilton
Abhorson: Youssef Kerkour
Barnardine: Daniel Stewart
Directed by: Roxana Silbert
Designed by: Garance Marneur
Lighting Designed by: Chahine Yavroyan
Music and Sound by: Davie Price
Movement by: Ayse Tashkiran
Magic Consultant: Richard Pinner
Company Text and voice Work by: Alison Bomber
Assistant Director: Adam Lenson
Music Director: John Woolf
Casting by: Helena Palmer