Directed by Emily Morrison
Pros: Confident and accessible Shakespeare, excellent portrayal of Angelo, interesting use of TV monitors in the set, talented young company.
Cons: Not enough use of TV monitors, very hot theatre, a little expensive for what it is (£13/£10).
Our Verdict: A good evening of theatre, definitely worth a trip to remind yourself that theatre doesn’t need money to be good!
So the year of the Shakespeare Festival has begun and in the run up to April, when it all officially kicks off, we’ll see adaptations of all the favourites popping up in both fringe and professional venues. Our first taste of what is in store for the coming year came from Artifice’s production of Measure for Measure at the White Bear Theatre, a small pub theatre in Kennington.
Some of the most creative theatrical talent can be found on the fringes of London’s theatre scene. Artifice is a young company who will have had very little (if any) real budget, and who will have pulled together this challenging Shakespeare with some hard work and enthusiasm, and most probably a lot of duct tape. Of course comparing productions to the sorts of shows that we usually review is therefore absurd – this is in a very different league. Nonetheless, this is where it all starts, in a small, cramped and hot pub theatre; give it 10 years and many of the team who pulled this impressive production together will be wowing audiences on the stage of the National.
In this production of Measure for Measure, director Emily Morrison has modernised the costumes and the set but left the language intact, something that we have seen on a number of occasions before. Nonetheless this was a confident and well directed production. The cast kept the play moving at a deft pace, their biggest strength being their ability to make the most of those darkly comical moments that often get lost in other interpretations of the text. For me, the stand out performance of the evening came from Patrick Oldham’s convincing portrayal of Angelo, which was as dark and slimy as they come. Other notable performances came from Tom van der Klugt as Duke Vicentio, whose slightly neurotic portrayal of the character towards the end was particularly enjoyable.
The present day staging worked well with the subject matter being as timely as corruption and morality. Sharp suits, slick hair and TV monitors on stage all helped to establish us firmly in the present and illustrate the parallels between the two worlds. I did not, however, think the newspaper cuttings were necessary; I couldn’t read most of them anyway, and I felt they were too obvious and not very original. I would have preferred to see more use of the TV monitors, a far more interesting idea which was perhaps limited by budget and by the fact that they were often obstructed by the action taking place in front of them.
In essence, this was a great evening of theatre, and a production which Artifice can be hugely proud of. We would highly recommend that people get out of the comfort of the air-conditioned mainstream theatres and get into the darker corners of London’s theatre scene; you might find a little gem, and this production of Measure for Measure is not far off being just that.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
Measure for Measure runs at the White Bear Theatre until 22nd January 2012.
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