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Edward II

The second in a double bill with Scena Mundi’s production of Richard II, Edward II, by Shakespeare’s contemporary Christopher Marlowe, is by contrast the story of a much darker regal downfall. Where King Richard is foolish, Edward is blindly selfish, flaunting his relationship with Piers Gaveston and relentlessly challenging the order.

Cecilia Dorland’s production is also confusingly embroidered with 80s rock-inspired costumes. Sumptuous braids and velvet are replaced by studs and leather. Despite this, the events take place neither fully in the 80s nor in the play’s original setting – which the company’s Richard II adhered to so loyally. This perplexing treatment adds little to something that, on the whole, is well-acted and has no need for gimmicks.

Edward Fisher gives an assured performance as the ill-fated king, while Pip Brignall’s sharp-tongued, sauntering Gaveston is so smug that it is hard to find his demise anything less than satisfying. Brignall later returns as the king’s executioner, a tactic employed – along with the contrasting dress – by the National Theatre’s 2013 production.

The homosexual themes that are so prevalent throughout the play are brought to the fore in Dorland’s production. However, they do occasionally seem forced through Edward and Gaveston’s overt flamboyance.

Unlike Shakespeare’s Richard II, Marlowe’s text is free from embellishments, yet is comic in places, exposing the caricatures that underline how contradictory and fickle his characters are.

As events darken, so too does the light streaming in through St Bartholomew the Great’s impressive windows, providing an appropriately ominous atmosphere.

Verdict
Strong performances, but could do without the gimmicks, which add little

Production Information

Venue
St Bartholomew the Great
City
London
Starts
May 21, 2015
Ends
July 2, 2015
Press night
May 26, 2015
Authors
Christopher Marlowe
Director
Cecilia Dorland
Lighting
Nathalie Gunzle
Costume
Penny Rischmiller
Technical
Penny Rischmiller (company stage manager), Nathalie Gunzle (technical stage manager)
Cast includes
Edward Fisher, Ava Amande, Martin Prest, Anna Buckland, Graham Pountney, Josh Pugh, David J Keogh, Pip Brignall, Damian Regan, Patrick Oldham, Nadia Sangari
Producer
Scena Mundi
Running time
2hrs 30mins