Measure for Measure for Manly by Shakespeare

Cast & Crew

Geoff Cartwright; Peter Buck Detmann; Katharine Lunny; John Grinston
Sam Rushton; Syann Williams; David; Christian; Mitch McDermott.
Anette Rowlinson - Lighting
music design by Simeon Barlow;
Hecate - Design

Roz Riley - Director

Review of Measure for Measure by playwright Wendy Lewis.
(Star of the Sea Theatre, Manly 18th April)

A highly enjoyable production. The opening sequence is wonderful, introducing the decadence, dignity and lust that will figure throughout. Love the way rubbish strewn about and the shredded newpapers indicate how lives will be torn apart. (But I see from the program notes that this may indicate the state of the kingdom up until now rather than the future.) Glad the rubbish is swept up quick smart! Also enjoyed the way actors make use of stairs and various entrances/exits. It seems to me the primary motif is what Isobel says to Angelo at their first meeting: imagine if Claudio were you and you were Claudio; would he treat you in this way? Everyone is either taking the place of someone else; pretending to be someone they are not; appearing to be virtuous when they are not...except for Escalus who has a pivotal role in not succumbing to these deceits. This gives him a tough call in having to remain steadfast and unwavering until nearly the very end. His final torrent of anger and subsequent mortification that he has insulted the Duke is well done.
The Duke is measured, wise and compassionate. He handles the role with dignity and his vocal range is impressive: from quiet contemplation to a voice of authority. The scene where he decides not to tell Isobel that Claudio is still alive seems clunky but I think that's because the Shakespearian believability factor is down to zero, not the fault of the actors!
Angelo is a very interesting mystery. Not sure if he is supposed to be a bad man covering up his faults or a genuinely good man who succumbs to temptation in the form of a nun. I think the latter. The early scene where he seeks another quest before taking on his commission hints that he is indeed unsure of his character...something does lurk there. One quibble with his monologue after first meeting with Isobel. He says something about longing to look into her eyes but in their first meeting he mostly avoids eye contact. Should there be a moment when he stares into her eyes, into his soul, and something clicks in his evil head, so that we know he has been transformed by a moment? To me he is a master of inscrutability. The final trial scene is where his immoveable hardness comes to the fore. The footage of his face splashed on the back works well. It gives him the beauty of a classic Greek statute, emphasises a definite smugness and also gives the scene a modern day "trial by media" flavour. One quibble here. The "crowd" is not really rowdy or vocal enough. They need to shout out much more and make lots more noise, even pelt rotting veggies.
Luccio is a fine performance, funny, loveable and loud, bringing life to some difficult Shakespearian quips. All the "low-life" characters are good: Elbow with his smiling kind of sadism, Miss Pompey with her frenetic energy and, of course, Luccio. Oh yes, Barnadine's drunken Irish rage at his impending death very funny. I love the motif of food and drink, the wine, the cups of tea, Mariana eating choccies or is it strawberries?! They all add to a visceral kind of feel; like Luccio's spitting and Elbow's "frisking". Perhaps the lowlife could be more vulgar. More crotch grabbing, bottom pinching, eating to excess, wiping nose on shirt, that kind of thing?
Isobel seemed to get more comfortable with her performance as the play rogressed. Her steady firmly planted feet but her constantly moving hands illustrate beautifully the moral struggles she is facing. She brings a lovely serious innocence to the character and manages to create that innocence without making Isobel an empty-headed little fool. In part II, we wait with bated breath as she struggles with whether to forgive Angelo or not. Her thought processes, her eyes, her hands, the little cogs moving in her simple religious brain are almost visible...that moment is exquisite! Claudio spends much time on stage in silent dignity as does Mariana which seems to me to be a hard task for an actor. They are two roles done well. Mariana is a picture of tormented elegance; Claudio accepts his lot but when his sister offers him a way out of course he takes it, much to her horror.
I must admit as Act I progressed, I got a sickening pain in my stomach...this is so GOOD, how am I going to find the right things to say?! It really was impressive. All in all, a production to be proud of,
Measure for Manly - photographed by John Reeves