Fringe Review: Measure for Measure
Fringe Review: Measure for MeasureReview by Anna Sutherland
Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe, Directed by John Marwick
Muritai School Yard, 16 – 20 February, 7.30pm
For booking information, visit www.bctt.org.nz
Revolving around the sexual exploits of its characters, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure is unquestionably a bawdy play.
The Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe seemed to relish this as they entertained the full house at Muritai School in Eastbourne, last night.
Director John Marwick chose to set the play in what he describes as “the art nouveau world of the Moulin Rouge”. This is appropriate for the risqué tone of the play, but it also let the troupe don lavish Victorian costumes that were absolutely stunning in their use of lush fabric, beautiful hats, and detailed jewellery.
The play has a typically complicated Shakespearian comedy plot, in which the Duke of Vienna, Vincentio, gives control of the city to his deputy, a harsh judge Angelo. The Duke then pretends to depart.
He does not leave, however, but disguises himself as a monk to see how the city is governed in his absence. He is appalled to see Angelo sentence a young man, Claudio, to death for impregnating his (Claudio’s) fiancée. Angelo has opted to enforce strict laws against fornication that the Duke has let lapse.
Claudio’s sister, Isabella, a novice nun, appeals to Angelo for mercy, and he offers to pardon Claudio in return for her virginity.
From here the plot twists and thickens, with highly implausible, but wonderfully entertaining, rightings of wrongs, and marrying-offs at the end, all with Isabella’s virginity still intact.
Strong performances in the lead roles, and some notable comic turns, carried the show.
In his role as Duke Vincentio, Damien Reid anchored the production with his powerful voice and commanding stage presence. He carried some scenes where other actors faltered over their lines, maintaining the momentum, and smoothing over awkward pauses.
Elspeth Harris shone as the virtuous and principled Isabella, and her scenes with Claudio, played by Patch Lambert, revealed the deepest emotion in the production. She earned a deserved round of applause for an impassioned soliloquy.
Florence McFarlane as the pimp, Pompey Bum, was delightfully crass and very funny. Phil Saxby, as the Provost, also gave a strong comedic performance.
This was my first experience of a ‘Bard in the Yard’ production, as the troupe calls their summer Shakespeare season.
I was pleasantly surprised by the set-up in a cosy quadrangle, covered by a shade, and sheltered from wind. The show is not billed as a professional one, and the reasonable ticket prices reflect this.
It is an enjoyable and entertaining amateur production, and a great chance to see a play that is not often performed.
While some of the actors need to rehearse their lines a bit more, and some of the delivery could be clearer and slower, it is a quirky, clever, and funny show.