Measure for Measure*** (Young Vic)

Posted: October 10, 2015 in Theatre


measure for measure

It is doubtful if so many inflatable sex dolls have ever been seen together before outside an Ann Summers distribution depot. Joe Hill-Gibbins’ unconventional (to say the least) version of William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure uses the dolls to suggest a lewd and licentious Vienna, abandoned temporarily by its ruling Duke Vincentio and left in the unreliable hands of Angelo. Apart from the dolls, Hill-Gibbins pulls out all the stops to break with tradition, with scenes shot live using hand-held cameras behind a screen and projected onto it and generous rations of modern urban music. It takes a little time to get used to the gimmicks and not all of them are 100% successful, but there is nothing wrong with striving to make Shakespeare accessible for new audiences and the most significant step in this direction comes with paring down the text to run for under two hours straight through, thereby jettisoning the diversions and sub-plots that can drag this play down and bring on the yawns. Rubin Varla’s playful Vincentio sets the tone of the production and Paul Ready, cast in the mould of a City banker as Angelo, makes a perfect villain. As the wronged Isabella, how wonderful to see Romola Garai on stage, bringing freshness and openness to the character. As the final scene approaches, the gimmicks are abandoned and the clutter is cleared. The production has by now drawn in the audience and achieved the clarity for which it has worked, so all that is needed is a bare stage and excellent actors to bring the nonsense to a satisfying conclusion.

Performance date: 9 October 2015

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