Edward II, Oliver Stage, National Theatre, London. October 2013.
So much for not having so much time to blog - well I suppose I am reading less for fun currently and don't have so many book reviews to share.
This past weekend Rebecca and I had another of our London binges - this time two plays and two museums in the space of 36 hours (37 if you count the end of BST!). We were joined by another friend but she has more sense than us and just came for lunch and the first play - Marlowe's Edward II...
This was a mix of styles in performance as some of the actors were in period costume and others very much in modern dress. The same followed through with the set and staging and after a few moments to understand that this was the style I found that it didn't bother me too much. The swapping of genders for participants also took a while to settle in but the actors were so good this did also cease to be an issue.
The play itself is also a little bit of a mixture as it has a deceptively simple story line - bad king makes bad decisions and his lords rise up against him. However as plotting to overthrow a monarch is something best done in private how to show this, and all of the bad decisions, on stage...
This production used handheld cameras to follow the actors into less visible areas and at times there were two stories being told - the actors at the front of the stage and then the projected video feed on the walls to the side.
I think it worked.
I came away being bowled over by the quality of the actors and the power of the story but slightly less convinced on the staging. The Oliver theatre has a wonderful revolving section and in my mind I'd imagined that being used to switch between parts of the story.
A lot of Edward's downfall comes about because he advances his (male) lovers politically and the existing nobles,naturally, don't particularly like this usurpation of their power. For me this play wasn't about their homophobia - when the king kisses his favourites (which he did a lot) the lords aren't shocked by this, or repulsed. It is the behaviour of the lovers as they flaunt their wealth, power and influence that enrages the establishment.
Gaveston (the King's lover and one cause of his downfall) was seated in the audience at the start and when he leapt from his seat and started talking to the stage I did wonder if there was an unhinged audience member. While this use of the whole theatre works at The Globe it felt a little awkward in this performance and made me long to see this either done in a more 'straight' fashion or actually at The Globe with full groundling participation.
This all sounds more negative than I actually felt on seeing the play as I enjoyed it a great deal. It also makes an interesting comparison with this week's set uni text which is Richard II - another poor king who loses his life.
picture of the whole cast and crew of the play tweeted by the National Theatre and taken just after the curtain fell on the matinee that we saw.