Measure for Measure

And so back to the delightful Rose Theatre Bankside on a dreary night in November that was brightened by this small but beautiful theatre’s pre-Winter feast. Measure for Measure is a tough choice for anyone – considered one of Shakespeare’s problem plays for good reason – particularly for a young theatre company like Owle Schreame.

Thankfully they pulled it off under the direction of Brice Stratford who also edited the script to a neat hour and three-quarters.

The story mixes high drama with high comedy, making it a difficult piece to pitch. Angelo is given the task of overseeing the city by Vincentio, the Duke, who says he is abroad but remains in the city to watch events. Angelo arrests Claudio (Otis Waby) for getting his girlfriend pregnant, leaving his sister Isabella to beg him for mercy. Angelo refuses but offers to save Claudio if she sleeps with him. Of course, the abandoned Isabella is duped but is given a lifeline by the return of the disguised Vincentio who reveals Angelo’s one-time engagement, which is eventually his undoing.

[highlighter color=”orange”]The audience is so close to the players that it would take the hardest of hearts not to feel sympathy for the superb Suzanne Marie (Isabella) – watching Angelo (Dan Van Garrett) rape her at your feet was an uncomfortable experience.[/highlighter]

Van Garrett had the trickiest task to balance the comic plot played darkly, particularly as some members of the audience (female students, mostly) laughed at practically everything he said. Was I missing something?

True comic relief came in the shape of the wonderful Elizabeth Bloom as Mistress Overdone, Jeremy Smith as Clowne, and Thomas Vilorio as Lucio, who in modern style talked to the audience, and added light touches. This watcher had to hold the slop bucket for 20 minutes. Great! The one jarring note was the odd behaviour of some audience members who did not seem to appreciate Stratford’s darker take on the story. I refer you to our recent article by Peter King on audience laughter. Finally, operations director Pepe Pryke continues to do a marvellous job at enthusing visitors to the wonderful little gem which he is guardian. If you haven’t visited yet, put this on your to do
list, pronto.

Measure for Measure runs under December 4. Check out the Concert for Christmas on December 12th for music, merriment and mince pies!

Ink Pellet Magazine

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