Edward II**** (National Theatre Olivier, 15 October 2013)

Posted: October 15, 2013 in Theatre

photo-88Entering the theatre, there is the smell of freshly sawn wood, befitting a set that looks like the warehouse at IKEA. Exactly what this has to do with 14th Century monarchy never becomes clear, but it is the first of countless eccentric touches to staging, costumes and casting that embellish this version of Christopher Marlowe’s play. As played by John Heffernan, Edward is a hapless figure, pilloried by the nobility over his relationship with his gay lover, Piers Gaveston (Kyle Soller, who, fittingly, also plays the King’s executioner). Joe Hill-Gibbins’ production is lively, inventive, fast-moving and lucid always offering something interesting to catch the eye. Maybe it is not entirely appropriate for the hokey-cokey to be played after a battle or for the Queen to be a chain smoker and, indeed, some of the weird ideas work better than others. However, overall it is fun and, considering the grizzly nature of parts of the story, fun is quite an achievement. A conventional interpretation of this play is likely to have proved more than a little turgid, so the National is to be congratulated.

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