MEASURE FOR MEASURE
by William Shakespeare.
Young Vic 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 14 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 4, 11 Nov 2.30pm.
Audio-described 31 Oct 2.30pm.
Captioned 5 Nov.
Runs 1hr 55min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 October.
Short Measure is intense and forceful.
While some laughs come in Joe Hill-Gibbins’ Young Vic slimmed-down, no interval production, few are likely to be ones perceived by early audiences.
Lacking the invention of plastic, they couldn’t have experienced a sexually rampant city created by blow-up dolls – thrown over the stage in an opening maelstrom, so the city’s governors have to wade through them to meet together.
Gradually, as Duke Vincentio disappears so his deputy Angelo can bring zero-tolerance to the moral turpitude Vincentio’s allowed to develop, the plastic people, chucked peremptorily backstage, are shoved away in a corner.
Backstage, behind a blank wall of scenery, becomes part of the performing space, video sections showing the riotous lifestyle erupting even in prison, and bringing close-ups of characters’ personal thoughts.
Which fits a play that doubles the Duke’s mission of moral evasion with checking-up on his Deputy’s possibly too good to be true standards.
It turns out Angelo, played with virginal certainty by Paul Ready, is no hypocrite until given the opportunity, when his power to kill her brother for breaking the sex laws brings him into contact with novitiate nun Isabella.
It’s one-direction love at first sight. Though there might be a fear of sex in Isabella (who can at first scarcely be seen kneeling among the plastic detritus) which led her to the convent, the offers from the high and mighty she receives are scarcely encouraging.
Hands held high in supplication to heaven, voice almost as high, Romola Garai’s Isabella has less of humanity about than Mariana, the girl-friend Angelo deserted when she lost her inheritance.
Normally unseen until late on, and then mostly as an adjunct to others’ plans, she becomes an independent figure in Cath Whitefield’s performance. Long sitting still at the side, as Mariana has stayed in her moated grange, she gradually comes to life, pacing and dancing towards a frenetic climax.
Zubin Varla’s intense Duke can’t see his moral dubiety. When he lines the character at the end, they are a damaged image of their former selves. The play has energies the stripping-away loses, but its dark side is starkly presented.
Provost: Hammed Animashaun.
Pompey: Tom Edden.
Isabella: Romola Garai.
Claudio: Ivanno Jeremiah.
Lucio: John Mackay.
Escalus: Sarah Malin.
Angelo: Paul Ready.
Julietta: Natalie Simpson.
Master Froth: Raphael Sowole.
Duke Vincentio: Zubin Varla.
Mariana: Cath Whitefield.
Barnardine: Matthew Wynn.
Director: Joe Hill-Gibbins.
Designer: Miriam Buether.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Sound: Paul Ardittti.
Video: Chris Kondek.
Movement: Imogen Knight.
Costume: Nicky Gillibrand.
Dramaturg: Zoë Svendsen.
Assistant director: Jasmine Woodcock-Stewart.