It's easy to see why the plays have been bracketed together: both feature kings who are deposed, power struggles between king and barons, and long passages about the nature of kingship. But these are superficial aspects of the plays - whereas Shakespeare's Richard is wholly pre-occupied with his role as king and his own mortality, Marlowe's masterpiece is about politics.
Director Timothy Walker strongly brings out the sexual elements. Edward and Gaveston can scarcely keep their hands off each other, kissing passionately in front of the nobles and the bishop, who hastily averts his eyes.
But what is lacking is the political dimension. Marlowe's plays would have sent shockwaves through an Elizabethan audience, even without the homosexual theme. The play has lost that - despite the fact that as recently as 30 years ago it would have shocked audiences, now we're more inured to the idea of homosexuality.
Walker doesn't bring out the strong secondary theme of Marlowe's play either: the class dimension. The barons hate Gaveston, and later Spencer, for their humble upbringings. Walker ignores this theme altogether and I think the play suffers as a result.
But Walker’s production is helped by some fine acting (and particularly strong verse speaking). Liam Brennan is a touching king, passionate in his love for Gaveston, although his transformation after her death could have been more complete - there is no hint of the autocrat that he became, shorn of his true love.
Justin Shevlin is a sneering Mortimer, gradually turning from disdainful baron to absolute tyrant and there's a strong queen from Chu Omambala. The highlight for me though is Richard Glaves as a flirtatious Margaret and as the young prince, slowly becoming aware of his own power.
The Globe should be commended for reviving this play that isn't the easiest piece for a modern audience, stuffed full as it is with classical allusion (a crucial scene depends on a Latin play on words). Nevertheless, it is enthusiastically received by groundlings and gallery alike.
- Maxwell Cooter