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

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.

 

Verdict
Marlowe'w epic chronicle of conquest given a stylish minimalist treatment

Production Information

Production
Tamburlaine
Venue
Arcola Theatre
City
London
Starts
March 20, 2017
Ends
April 8, 2017, then on tour
Press night
March 20, 2017
Authors
Christopher Marlowe,
Adaptation
Ng Choon Ping
Director
Ng Choon Ping
Set
Moi Tran
Lighting
Neill Brinkworth
Sound
Liam McDermott
Video
Gillian Tan
Stage manager
Suneeda Maruthiyil (company stage manager), Frances Somerville (assistant stage manager)
Production manager
Simon Sinfield (production manager)
Cast includes
Melody Brown, Lourdes Faberes, Fiona Hampton, Susan Hingley, Amanda Maud, Leo Wan
Producer
Yellow Earth Theatre
Running time
2hrs