by John Ford.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Shakespeare’s Globe New Globe Walk Bankside SE1 9DT To 18 April 2015.
2.30pm 26, 28 Mar, 8, 10, 12, 16, 17 March.
7.30pm 26-28, 31 Mar, 1-5,7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18 April.
Audio-described 17 Apr.
Captioned 15 Apr.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7401 9919. (£2.50 transaction fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 March.

Hearty laughter made to abound.
While many playwrights of the early 17th-century await a production at the indoor arm of Shakespeare’s Globe, John Ford is already on his second, following ’Tis Pity She’s A Whore. This time there’s a more restrained title, taken from a fine line “The lifeless trunk shall wed the broken heart.”

It’s heard first as a prophecy, being repeated when events in ancient Sparta have brought it about in reality. The sight of Luke Thompson’s Ithocles standing lifeless – the horizontal made shockingly vertical – while Sarah MacRae’s Calatha assumes a fantasticated winged costume beside him for a marriage-in-death, is a chilling image of stillness and sorrow in the place of life and joy.

Three things make this moving moment: visual clarity, verse-speaking. And the steady pace; a rare andante amidst a mess of allegro (more or less) moltos. Ford piles characters on incidents, with mounting sensation. Maybe all was clearer in 1628, when no-one expected much by way of historical consistency, while speech and behaviour fitted familiar patterns of dramatic manners.

Nor was there today’s super-saturated mess of tragedy and comedy, bound together by irony. With restraints on behaviour no longer so conditioned by class, family or moral expectations, it’s tempting for a revival to follow the logical-seeming line taken by director Caroline Steinbeis and go for laughs all along the way.

But this is a play where an imprisoned woman starves to death. The production’s tone leaves Bassanes, a serious, guilty father, out on a limb. Owen Teale’s force as a performer exposes him even more; he does well enough, but nothing like the superb work he’s done for Terry Hands in Mold over the years.

Genuinely funny moments slip-down easily, elsewhere acting creates humour with sudden surprises, sharp emphases, unexpected pauses and vocal contrasts – at worst, creating inconsistency at unavoidably serious moments.

There is a lot of fun to be had with actors skilled as these generally are. But there’s none of the "catastrophe so grand, so solemn, so surprising," Charles Lamb found in the playback in 1808. It’s enough to break a Fordite’s heart.

Crotolan: Liam Brennan.
Technicus: Peter Hamilton Dyer.
Orgilus: Brian Ferguson.
Amyclas: Patrick Godfrey.
Nearchus: Joe Jameson.
Amelus/Philas: Adam Lawrence.
Calantha: Sarah MacRae.
Grausis: Sanchia cCormack.
Penthea: Amy Morgan.
Prophilus: Tom Stuart.
Bassanes: Owen Teale.
Euphrania: Thalissa Teixeira.
Ithocles: Luke Thompson.
Armostes: Phil Whitchurch.

Director: Caroline Steinbeis.
Designer: Max Jones.
Composer: Simon Slater.
Choreographer: Imogen Knight.
Musical Director: Adrian Woodward.
Globe Associate: Movement Glynn MacDonald.
Voice: Text: Martin McKellan.
Fight consultant: Bret Yount.
Marriage consultant: Darren Lang.
Assistant director: Laurence Cook.

2015-03-26 12:59:04

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