The Marlowe Papers review at the Warren, Brighton – ‘barnstorming’
Conspiracy theories about faked deaths go a long way back. Perhaps one of the most infamous in theatre is that Shakespeare as genius playwright never existed – he was just Christopher Marlowe’s frontman.
That’s the starting point for historical novel The Marlowe Papers, here adapted for the stage as a one-hander by its author – local Brighton writer Ros Barber – and Nicola Haydn, who also directs Jamie Martin in multiple roles.
Kit Marlowe is a bad-boy writer, a dangerously opinionated drunk – and a spy. When his boasting lands him in treasonably atheistic hot water in a puritanical Elizabethan England in 1593, his death is staged and the ‘Shakespeare’ he writes as claims his fame.
Martin is fantastically watchable as Marlowe, launching himself across a bare stage in snarling fury and sadness at his enforced, ghostly existence – the spectre of Hamlet’s father is a bitter source of irony here. And he vividly captures the low-lives and lords populating a tawdry, intrigue-filled England.
Martin’s barnstorming performance lifts a script that, while inherently enjoyable as ‘what-if’ melodrama, betrays its novelistic roots by being overly episodic. It’s in the second half that it snaps into focus as a gripping study of a man in limbo – denied his place in history.
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.