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The Marlowe Papers review at the Warren, Brighton – ‘barnstorming’

Jamie Marlowe in The Marlowe Papers

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.

Verdict
Juicy ‘what-if’ period melodrama for the Shakespeare conspiracy theorists, lifted by a great central performance

Production Information

Production
The Marlowe Papers
Venue
The Warren: Studio 2
City
Brighton
Starts
May 22, 2016
Ends
June 4, 2016
Press night
May 22, 2016
Authors
Nicola Haydn, Ros Barber
Music
James Fiddes Smith
Director
Nicola Haydn
Set
Steve Bates
Lighting
Jamie King-Cox
Stage manager
Antony Pintus
Cast includes
Jamie Martin
Producer
Otherplace Productions
Running time
2hrs