LAST week’s compelling student production of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II reminded us of the many excellencies of the only one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries to have come within a mile of his genius.
A clear narrative thrust, clever concision of the action and richly poetic language are all features of a fine play that heavily influenced Richard II.
Perhaps Calam Lynch (pictured), richly watchable as the king brought down by a homosexual passion, should now follow Ian McKellen’s example from 1969 and show us the Bard’s capricious, and likewise doomed, monarch.
Lynch was far from the only good thing in this modern-dress production, well directed by Charlotte Vickers.
Equally dominant on the stage was Joe Stephenson, as the king’s principal enemy Mortimer, who allied himself, sexually too, with the rejected queen Isabella (Rosa Garland).
As Piers Gaveston, the provoker of the king’s passion and the envious fury of the barons, Sam Liu showed the requisite brand of headstrong petulance.
Marcus Knight-Adams, as Spencer, his successor in Edward’s favours, came across as pretty much a chip off the same block.
The availability of many talented female actors doubtless explained why a number were cast in male roles, including Hannah Marsters as the Earl of Leicester and Julia Pilkington as the young prince, later Edward III.
It seemed significantly ahead of reforms in the Church, however, to have a female Bishop of Canterbury (Amelia Gabriel.)
This was an especially good-looking production, with designer Harriet Bourhill’s central monolith, suggestive of a giant throne, expertly lit by Jennifer Hurd. It sounded good, too, thanks to music and eerie effects from Jonny Danciger.
CHRISTOPHER GRAY 4/5