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Marlowe’s Ghost: Tales from the Golden Age – Golden Age Theatre YouTube

Reviewer: Dominic Corr

Writer and Director: Ian Dixon Potter

Adapted from The Dead Shepherd by Robert Pope and Ian Dixon Potter

Thus far, largely comprising a focus of the present and future, Ian Dixon Potter’s Tales From The Golden Age looks at the impacts of fascism, resentment and bigotry. Now harkening into the past to contemplate the mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare’s later life and retirement, Marlowe’s Ghost finds the bard reflecting on his relationship with Christopher Marlowe, and how his detachment from the man has led to a series of academics, people and writers suspecting Marlowe had a hand in some of histories’ magnum opuses.

Revenge is a bitter poison, often dealing equally as much damage to those holding the grudge. Satisfied with his immortality in script, Shakespeare seeks to solve a quarrel, to make right the atrocities and actions of the likes of William and his son Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. Sat alone in his home, Mark Shaer holds Shakespeare in high regard, with an intrinsically powerful stance, an enviable clarity and expression in this monologue.

As engaging as it is educational, Potter’s writing staves off a stale vibe, instead, capitalising on the bard’s life which was as dramatic as his onstage creations. Thankfully refusing to bury the past, Marlowe’s Ghost shines a light into the bleaker corners of the late sixteenth century, not solely diving into the history of the bard but the fundamental nature of scriptwriting, of theatre’s history. Sprinkling the adaptation with inspirations and references utilising the wealth of material to work with, Marlowe’s Ghost becomes veritable who’s who of theatre.

Despite an evident focus in history, Potter’s writing weaves a suspicious familiarity into the meta-narrative; A reflection on the relationship between the state and arts, a relationship where one sees the additional benefits but offers none of the support.

Framed simply, Howard White’s videography alters angles to relieve the monotony, serving little else than to break up Shaer’s monologue. Accompanying this, Neil Thompson’s original composition is period-appropriate, generating energy for Shaer to run with and to find a rhythm.

With a delicate sense of humour, Shaer’s recitation of the monologue is a powerhouse in control. Never allowing emotion to overflow, it takes considerable nerve and robust skill to deliver a speech laden with historical facts (all with a side serving of dramatic liberty of course), and Shaer excels. Exuberant prowess in his conviction of the script, clarity, and diction, he has fun with it, savouring every inch of the role.

Love, life, faith, art – death. Everything is dissected and composed with an astute sense of writing in Marlowe’s Ghost, which transcends history and steps out into the contemporary era as an engaging monologue which draws on an immense pool of mystery and wit. Carried by a strong performance from Shaer, this adaptation of Potter and Robert Pope’s The Dead Shepherd makes for a compelling and accessible piece.

Available here

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