Pros: A powerful story told by an energetic and sensitive cast.
Cons: The occasional flat delivery of a line was made worse by not being able to hear some more poignant scenes.
I love a play with a great title. The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England, with the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer, known as Edward II. I can just hear the town crier shouting to the masses. An epic title for an epic play, if you ask me. Christopher Marlowe framed an engrossing love story within the boundaries of a revolution, caused partially by that same romance. King Edward II (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) brings back his lover, Gaveston (Bradley Frith) from exile much to the horror of his court. A struggle begins to convince others that he made the right choice, to keep them from repealing his decision and to fight for his throne. A significant story, indeed, for the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality; a significant move that allows us to view Edward II in a vastly different light.
The Tristan Bates Theatre, located in the creative hub that is The Actors Centre, hosts Lazarus Theatre Company in their new productions of Edward II. We were welcomed into the performance space by the cast, who one by one fell into a trance-like stride. Rave music and rubber masks (of animals, the pope and a terrifying clown) held up on meat hooks snapped our attention to the event. We were gently directed to seats by the cast, but I recommend not sitting in the corner opposite the entrance: the dry smoke was, at times, unbearable. Even some of the cast coughed while over there. Maybe also bring a cushion, as I was so grateful to stand at the end.
You could smell the macho tension from the all-but-one-male cast from the offset. Character dynamics were palpable and distinct throughout, but none more so than the touching relationship between Edward II and Gaveston. Their first tender scene, with a close slow dance, was incredibly emotional. Also, throughout, Kent (Alex Zur) was overrun with brotherly protection of Edward II; very poignant later in the play when he tries to convince the King to go against his heart for his own good, and for the good of his people.
As a group the cast remained utterly convincing throughout. When not directly involved in the action they waited, stoic, at the sides ready to jump into the fray. Two chairs were effectively used to give a second ‘space’, with pairs of characters talking above what went on below. Marlowe’s language is less metaphorical and ornamented than Shakespeare, but the delivery was still sometimes flat. Other times, when I could see there was a lot of feeling and nuance to the performance, I couldn’t hear what was going on because those at the side were rustling away for costume changes and readying props; towards the end I found this very frustrating. Some disposable plastic gloves and aprons were used necessarily (for a fantastic visual scene), but were nonetheless noisy.
I recently saw a production of Taming of the Shrew by Lazarus that had me so excited for my second evening with them. I am genuinely sorry that this didn’t quite live up to the mark, but I was still very impressed at an energetic and sensitive cast that tell a touching and harrowing story.
Author: Christopher Marlowe
Director: Ricky Dukes
Producer: Lazarus Theatre Company
Box Office: 020 3841 6611
Booking Link: https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/edward-ii
Booking Until: 9 September 2017