DramaReviewSouth West

Measure for Measure – Cygnet Theatre, Exeter

Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Alistair Ganley
Reviewer: Kelyn Luther

Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays’ and any production has certain elements of the story that are hard for a modern Western audience to relate to, including the main dilemma (Isabella’s reluctance to betray her vow of chastity to save her brother, who has been condemned to death for getting his unmarried girlfriend pregnant).

tell-us-block_editedThe performances are mixed in style; Jake Sullivan as the Duke focuses on the rhythms of the text and in doing so, gives a gravitas to the role. Marissa Rowell as bawdy Pompey Bum gives a modern interpretation of her role, not letting herself get bogged down in the many obscure jokes in the text.

Director Alistair Ganley’s vision for the text is not so clear. Obviously, the small scale of production limits the options for set and costume but Measure for Measure is all about the rules of a specific society. Faintly placing it in the modern day by having a leopard skin coat and a black feather boa as part of the costumes doesn’t cut it.

Guy Dennys as Angelo effectively conveys his repressed lust that has been simmering under his stern official manner, although perhaps there could have been more physical restraint in the scene where he demands that Isabella sleeps with him in exchange for her brother’s life. Jessica Parsons is particularly strong in this scene, showing how she is repulsed by Angelo but tempted by sexual promise.

The play drags a little in the second half but this is mainly the fault of the text, as the greatest drama happens in Act 1.

Cygnet Company has created an accessible and enjoyable taster for one of Shakespeare’s most intriguing and complex plays.

Runs until 25 March 2017 | Image: Contributed




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