TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT
by Christopher Marlowe adapted by Ricky Dukes & Gavin Harrington-Odera.
Tristan Bates Theatre 1A Tower Street WC2H 9NP To 12 September 2015.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7240 6283.
Review: William Russell 25 August.
A crowning achievement.
Lazarus is always a splendidly drilled company and this staging of Marlowe’s tragedy displays all its skills. It is superbly lit and performed to a dazzling array of off-stage sounds.
The set is a black box with a central square acting space surrounded by a red border and, outside that, along three sides, a “passage” into which action sometimes strays. Lighting is used to dazzle the audience so the players simply disappear into the depths at the back of the set.
Not all Marlowe’s horrors are shown; the text has been considerably cut – Peter Hall’s 1976 National Theatre production Hall ran some four hours – but the rise and fall of Tamburlaine, the war lord who ruled the Middle East and fell victim to pride when he challenged God, is told lucidly and with power by the fifteen-strong cast.
At the centre is Prince Plockey’s hugely effective performance as Tamburlaine, matched by Alex Maude as Bajazeth, the great emperor he dethrones and abuses. Plockey is a considerable actor, but although he is blessed with a fine gym-toned physique, everyone else towers over him, and to some extent his Tamburlaine misses the sheer animal power the man must have had.
The cast play numerous roles and avoid the all too common problem in doubling and trebling, of leaving the audience wondering just who it is watching.
At times verse speaking leaves a little to be desired – there is occasionally a tendency to rush things, to voice clearly and passionately but somehow not appear to understand what one is saying, while Plockey could do with a few more bass notes to his voice.
The directors say that during rehearsal they investigated the qualities of leadership, the perils of power, the distaste of extravagance and the downfall of political arrogance and ignorance. Nothing wrong with that. But while the physicality of the performances and the staging as a whole are superb, more time on voice work for the players would help.
However this is a fine attempt at a massive, difficult and rarely performed play, which undeniably succeeds in nearly scaling the heights.
Tamburlaine: Prince Plockey.
Techelles: Kate Austin.
Usumcasane: Adam Cunis.
Theridamas: Adam Wyn Jones.
Mycetes/King of Argier/Messenger 1: Robert Gosling.
Cosroe/King of Fez/Orcane: Stephen Emery.
Ortygius/King of Morocco/King of Soria: Tom Woodward.
Meander/Callapine: Thomas Winsor.
Menaphon/Soldan of Egypt/Governor of Baylon: Tom Scurr.
Zeno crate/Virgin 3: Alex Reynolds.
Zabina/Virgin 1/Messenger 2: Charlotte Couture.
Ebea/Virgin 2/Jerusalem: Pauline Nakirya.
Anippe/Spy/Virgin 4/King of Trebizon: Georgie Grier.
Agydas/Governor of Damascus/Almeda: Lorna Reed.
Bajazeth/Soldier 1/King of Amasia: Alex Maude.
Directors: Ricky Dukes, Gavin Harrington-Odera.
Lighting: Jai Morjaria.
Sound: Neil McKeown.
Costume: Rachel Dingle.