On Wednesday 8th January the grade 11 English Language and Literature group watched the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of 'Measure for Measure' at the Barbican. It was a brave venture into the unknown for the students who are yet to study Shakespeare and it yielded mixed results as this review shows:
Gregory Doran’s 2020 Barbican production of Shakespeare's ‘Measure for measure’ is a passable yet completely forgettable adaptation of what should be an extremely relevant play for our current time period. The production lacks impact and falls short of delivering a powerful emotional story to its audience which is primarily caused by its mixed cast, slow pacing, and poor structure. However, it does manage to give a sophisticated exploration of morality but since that was given not through the production but by Shakespeare it makes it hard to award Mr Doran credit for the intellectual aspects of the play.
Isabella (Lucy Phelps) is perhaps one of the most crucial characters in giving the play its power yet that is a great reason why this play gets thrown into the deep chasm of mediocracy. Her performance is infuriating and sometimes laughably bad to watch which can ruin a scene in an instant. When the Duke (Antony Byrne) tricks Isabella into believing her brother Claudio (James Cooney) has been executed, despite her best efforts to save him, her reaction completely breaks the moment and was inexcusably hilarious. She drops down to the floor in a shriek like a child and then suddenly stops as if her rehearsal was over and she felt like taking a break. It destroys the moment and allows the audience to see straight through the character revealing only an actor doing as the script requires. These moments of characters sudden turning into children having a very short and jarring tantrum happen more than once and Barnadine (Graeme Brooks) is also an offender of this fault. That is not to say to the whole cast is lacking, in fact Angelo (Sandy Grierson) plays an impressive performance including several faces to his diverse character. He can switch from an almost Nazi like figure with his blonde slick back hair to an almost pathetic creature in front of the Dukes power making it very intriguing to watch. If all characters were like this then maybe the productions insufferably long and arduous scenes that made half the audience asleep might have been possible to watch.
In the end this play is nothing special. Most of the cast Is competent and the directing is standard enough to leave it as passable as well as the technical side being impressive it allows for this play not to do enough wrong to be bad but it also leaves nothing good to remember it by.
5/10 Shakespeare writing saves it from incompetency.