dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Tamburlaine review at Arcola Theatre, London – ‘stylishly minimal’

Lourdes Faberes and Leo Wan in Tamburlaine at Arcola Theatre, London

Marlowe’s world-conquering shepherd Tamburlaine loves rolling the names of places round his mouth: Persepolis, Scythia, Aleppo, Damascus.

This relish is palpable in Lourdes Faberes’ swaggering performance as Tamburlaine, knocking out a roll call of conquests as she heads up a female-dominated team. There’s a real thrill watching Faberes in the role – she’s an icy badass in leather trousers.

Elsewhere Ng Choon Ping’s production is pared back to the extreme: six actors and a white wall onto which more names of people and places are projected. It’s stylishly cinematic, a quality continuously underscored by the foreboding soundtrack of percussion from Joji Hirota.

At times this slickness verges on anodyne: there’s little sense of violent devastation and with 10 acts packed into two hours, inevitably some of the details get lost in the mix. This isn’t helped by extensive multi-rolling and while some characters feel distinct, including Fiona Hampton’s hostage-queen Zenocrate, others are underpowered. The cast shines in the private, domestic moments: a blackly humorous family squabble between Tamburlaine and sons, the suicide of a captive king and his wife.

It is still stirring to see women deal so matter of factly (and bloodthirstily) with power – but there are times when this production leaves you wishing for more nuance, a more assertive expression of some of the ideas bubbling under its surface. There is a teasing suggestion that for all the pomp, Tamburlaine is doing this to impress the girl; like the rest of the production, it’s a potentially fascinating idea, frustratingly underdeveloped.

 

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.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
Marlowe'w epic chronicle of conquest given a stylish minimalist treatment
^