MEASURE FOR MEASURE
Heady Conduct Theatre at The Rose Playhouse, Bankside
for Remote Goat
Stripped-down Shakespeare, shorn of background and the bigger picture, but telling the moral fable clearly and accessibly.
The stage itself is uncluttered, with just a wooden chest for the borrowed habit. But above, devotional pictures lit by real candles, and, across the water, one of the best shoreline scenes I've seen in this unique performance space – Amy Harris and co-director Rebecca Rogers the designers. Reflecting the religiose imagery, we see Mariana's marriage and the bed-trick in dumb-show, and more substantial dialogue scenes too. Not a word lost, either; the switch from close-up to distant shore impressively handled, enhanced by excellent soundscape and music [Jack Sugden].
Much is lost, of course. It's still not dark when we emerge into Bankside – 90 minutes exactly. Pompey and Overdone amongst the casualties, partly compensated by a comedy [uncanonical] prologue, some business with an unsuspecting whore in the front row, and paper flags to wave for the Duke's return.
Engaging performances from six young players, including director Simon Rodda as the loose-tongued Lucio. Matthew Darcy is Vincentio, eavesdropping from the audience, and particularly effective in the closing scenes where he calls the shots; Luke de Belder the confused, miserable Claudio. Gemma Clough plays the prison provost, the nun Francisca as well as the wronged Mariana. Blake Kubena is “hard Angelo”. His soliloquies are natural, involving, even if, perhaps because of pruning, the melting of moral rectitude is not fully explored. His scenes with Rebecca Rogers' earnest, virtuous novice Isabella are compelling, vocally and physically. “Who will believe thee, Isabel?”, he snarls – the refrain of the abuser over the centuries.
The approach to the text is contemporary and fresh – non-verbal communication very twenty-first century. Verbal, too, on occasion - “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” the cynical response to Angelo's apology.
Comedy and accessibility to the fore in this successful, succinct short Measure.
photos: Heady Conduct Theatre