This is not one of the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays, for many good reasons. The plot is convoluted and the ending is strange, with the Duke happily marrying everyone off. It is often described as a problem play and the challenge for the director is to solve the problems and keep the audience interested.
Martha Henry did not quite make it with this production. The cast was superb, as is the norm for Stratford productions. How far wrong can you go when you have Geraint Wynn-Davies, Steven Ouimette and Tom Rooney in lead roles, with support from Randy Hughson, Dylan Trowbridge and many others? But a collection of good performances does not always hang together and that was my problem with last evening’s performance.
One of the key plot elements is the substitution of Mariana (played by Sarah Afful) for Isabella (Carmen Grant) in the bed of the less than virtuous Angelo (Rooney). I wonder if anyone who had not read the play or seen another version actually caught this happening? It just seemed to be glossed over.
The costumes and setting in post war Vienna were interesting, as was the dramatic opening entrance by the Duke, looking very Liberace. But again there were odd notes. At the end of the play we find that one woman who has been dressed as a police officer is actually supposed to be a prostitute. Patrica Collins and Geraint Wynn Davies battled for the best costumes and the cheap laughs.
Two other odd notes that did not work for me were the sudden little rap number by Wynn Davies, and the sudden song as he, Isabella and Mariana are rowed away as the end of another scene.
Looking back over these comments, it appears that I did not like the production. In fact I did like it. It was not perfect, but it was interesting, and at times quite fun.