‘And now I give my sensual race the rein: Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite’
(Measure for Measure, Act II.iv.)
Set in vice riddled Vienna in the dirty suburbs where the city folk latch onto carnal desires, Measure for Measure is a work of debauchery, hypocrisy and deceit. Rising from the gutters, the Everyman Theatre’s traditional retelling is a thoroughly enjoyable and well interpreted Shakespearean rendition. As part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages programme, Cardiff’s Everyman Theatre has had the opportunity to work with professionals from the company and this insight is distinctively present in the performance. The leading actors and actresses demonstrate a clear understanding of the complex issues that arise in this unsettling comedy.
Reduced to a simple and understated set and a series of brief early modern musical interludes, this stripped down traditional interpretation purely relies on acting ability to carry it and the cast do a commendable job. The bawdy brothel scenes are vigorously entertaining and could have been given slightly more stage time. The low lighting in the brothel and prison scenes adds to the dingy squalor but in court, I found the lighting to be severe at times and slightly off putting.
In the play’s contrasting moments of comedic vulgarity and abhorrence, the Duke’s air of pomposity and trickery is suitably inflated by Brian Smith and the moronic Elbow, skin crawling Lucio and cheeky chappie Pompey (Arnold Phillips, Philip Jones and Dan Burrows) bring the light-hearted scenes to life. Aroused by prohibition, Angelo’s (Andreas Constantinou) moral recklessness and coldness adds a sinister edge to the production. In particular, in Act IV when he attacks Isabella (Carey Barley) in a frenzy of erotic desire, as the scene progresses, the duo’s acting is at its best. Barley’s performance is particularly professional.
When all the cast appear on stage for the final scene, there is a strong sense of camaraderie and the company’s love of performing really shines through. This group of passionate and talented individuals tackle Shakespeare’s work admirably. Chapter Arts Centre is the perfect platform to showcase our local talent.