Measure for Measure is the second production of the Royal Shakespeare
Company’s winter season, directed with panache by RSC associate Roxana Silbert. Arguably one of the more directorially
taxing pieces of the canon, Measure has been made thoroughly coherent
in this production.
I have to admit I've had precious little involvement with the play before; therefore it was always going to be interesting to see how the story conveyed to me. I was not disappointed in the least.
The stand-out performance goes to Raymond Coulthard as the somewhat
enigmatic yet slightly effeminate Duke Vincentio, complete with
sleight of hand trickery and knowing asides to the audience,
deploying particularly fine skill in his soliloquies.
It is fair to say this production is very accessible to those
unfamiliar with Shakespeare, with strong techniques to guide the
audience through. However, it’s entirely possible those with in-depth
knowledge of the play may feel slightly short-changed (a sentiment I heard expressed more than once within the theatre).
Excellent verse control is exhibited by all – especially by Jamie
Ballard’s Angelo and Paul Chahidi’s Lucio (displaying fine comic
ability along the way). It is, sadly, rare to see a production in
which every spoken word is clear, precise and delivered with real clarity of meaning.
Mark Quartley and Jodie McNee (siblings Claudio and Isabella)
deliver controlled and precise performances as the condemned and his
hope, the latter capably carries a weight of the role and
will surely grow as the production runs.
Mention must be given to Daniel Stewart’s Barnardine (bloody-mindedly
refusing to be beheaded whilst drunk), giving an excellent and
perfectly formed interpretation, also to the calming Escalus (Geoffery
Beevers) and Provost (superb Bruce Alexander).
I saw little point in the seemingly obligatory RSC dance, which occurs
at the climax – the production would feel cleaner had the piece ended with the Duke’s final line, especially as
no form of movement is displayed elsewhere during the nigh-on three
hour running time (unless light S&M and spanking classifies as
The bondage brothel setting is a concept that works thoroughly
well, juxtaposed by the clean-cut confines of the nunnery and the Venetian corridors of power.
The piece is complemented by Garance Marneur’s delightfully simple
design working in unison with Chanine Yavroyan’s versatile lighting –
displayed alongside the gorgeous music of composer Dave Price,
making his RSC debut.
Whilst perhaps not a production for seasoned theatregoers, it's an ideal introduction to Shakespeare without being
dumbed down. A worthy addition to the winter repertoire.