Review by Oli Burley
EVERY so often a play comes along that is spot-on in artistic
judgement and execution of character.
Measure for Measure may lack the big-name clout
of Romeo and Juliet
or Much Ado About
Nothing, but it is the most satisfying offering in the Globe’s
Season of Star-Crossed Lovers.
It is difficult to find fault with John Dove’s version
of the ‘problem play’, not least as the actors clearly
revel in the work’s moral arguments, enlivened in part by
Unlike the RSC’s attempt, last year, to shoehorn the action
into the 1940s, this is an uncluttered, traditional practices
production that thrives on Shakespeare’s linguistic brilliance.
All credit then to the Globe’s artistic director, Mark
Rylance, who excels as the second-rate, weedy Duke Vincentio,
a man whose lax rule has allowed Vienna’s laws to degenerate.
After handing authority to his deputy, Angelo (Liam Brennan),
Vincentio watches events unfold disguised as a friar, who Rylance
plays with an endearing mix of paternity and ineptitude.
Brennan’s performance is equally masterful and, for the
first time in the Season, it feels like the A-list actors are
The Scot is devilishly awesome as
he strictly reinforces the law, condemning Alex Hassell’s
much-aggrieved Claudio to death for getting lover, Juliet (Liana
But Angelo’s resolve bends, then turns to sin when faced
by Claudio’s chaste sister, Isabella, played by the immaculate
and deliberate Sophie Thompson.
Temptation creates dramatic tension as Angelo forces Isabella
to decide whether her virginity is worth more than her brother’s
With the undercover Vincentio striving to save both, it is only
in the grand final scene that the cast can be sure whether or
not this emotional and political power-struggle can be resolved.
It is a climax almost stolen by the fantastic Lucio (Colin Hurley),
whose garish yellow outfit draws attention to an even more outrageous
Hurley is the ideal link between the court and the backdrop of
seedy city life, where brothel-owner, Mistress Overdone (Peter
Shorey), and her servant, Pompey (John Dougall), have licence
to ridicule man’s sexual frailty.
Their frank and comical exposure of human weakness is balanced
by an odious depiction of women as commodities that is mirrored
by Angelo’s treatment of Isabella and his forsaken wife-to-be,
Mariana (Hilary Tones).
These are weighty issues and where Dove truly triumphs is in
his ability to convey them in an engaging, yet challenging manner,
that never threatens to undermine their significance.
Our photo shows: Isabella (Sophie Thompson) and Vincentio
(Mark Rylance). Picture by: John Tramper