A refreshing take on an under-performed Christopher Marlowe play showcasing young acting talent sounds like a great idea. But it fails to deliver on a promising premise.
In a sparse boardroom, the newly-coronated Edward (Timothy Blore) is thrilled to welcome his secret gay lover Gaveston (Oseloka Obi) back from exile in France. But since the couple have a distracting habit of publicly getting it on in front of the Queen (Alicia Charles) and numerous sharp-suited nobles who want Gaveston dead, Edward soon finds his crown under threat.
Director Ricky Dukes tries hard to do something new with Marlowe, but his take is devoid of nuance. Provocative physical displays are a lazy way to portray Edward and Gaveston’s relationship and a one-dimensional take on homosexual passion. The denouement, with its blood-soaked plastic sheeting and rubber-masked killers, feels over-baked. The brash lighting and blaring music are empty, modish gestures.
Blore plays Edward as a lovelorn teenager, lacking the kingly gravitas necessary for Marlowe’s grandiose speeches. Charles doesn’t make enough of Queen Isabella’s Lady Macbeth style scheming. Obi is entertaining as young upstart Gaveston, but is underused.
A genuinely new take on Marlowe threatens to emerge. Little of what Dukes does is conventional, yet he favours visually-striking tableaux over believable human behaviour. Edward II marks the start of Lazarus Theatre’s year-long residency at Greenwich Theatre – Lord of the Flies and A Midsummer Night’s Dream will follow – but this first offering falls flat.