Measure for Measure

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. 


About cathyriggall

Theatre junkie, who thinks live theatre is the ultimate form of living on the edge. You never know what will happen when an actor steps on the stage.
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One Response to Measure for Measure

  1. keithhpotter says:

    If I taught high school English, this is the Shakespeare play I would want the class to read and discuss. It’s a bit difficult but very interesting play and, unlike Portia’s very unsatisfactory behaviour, Isabella shows mercy to the person she hates at the end – a big improvement from the narrow minded match for Angelo earlier in the play. The Duke wanting, demanding, to marry her at the end is a bit strange but Shakespeare always presents marriage as the preferred state to attain.

    Anyway, this production had a generally great cast but I didn’t really find the production to my taste. Part of it was the staging. The Patterson stage is a challenge, but many of the best things we have seen at Stratford have been there and often the stage has ended up contributing to the success. However, this time my review might start “Nice Desk” as that was my overwhelming impression of the first act – the damn desk dominated my view of the stage and often the speaker had their back to me as well. Why? what did this add to the production. Very strange.

    Like Cathy, I also found the rap and the song weird in the context of how the play was presented and seemed without purpose.

    So, okay; but a bit disappointing.

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