Theatre in Wales

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Warm and rewarding evening of excellent theatre

At the Sherman

Sherman Cymru- Measure For Measure , The Provincial, Bute Street Cardiff , November 25, 2010
At the Sherman by Sherman Cymru- Measure For Measure At the core of the play Shakespeare sets up a serious debate on morality, good on the one hand and bad on the other (His argument does go a little deeper than this). Sherman Cymru’s production adds its own input into this dilemma and duality by having some members of the cast doubly doubling up by portraying a character of each sex and one of good with one of bad, highlighting the differences by some being half costumed as male and the other half as female.

Whilst the play is classed as one of Shakespeare’s comedies, there’s no major character lying dead at the end, the pending execution of Claudio is a major driving force of the play. With succinct dramaturgical work from D J Britton and sensitive and understanding direction from Amy Hodge the production brings all these elements joyously together. With the cast acting as friendly ushers and greeters before the ‘curtain rises’ in their bizarre apparel we know we are going to be in for some fun. Soon we are caring very much about the seeming inevitable plight of Claudio and his pregnant girl friend Julietta. Gwynfor Jones gives us an appealing and gentlemanly performance as Claudio, reserving a more forceful approach when playing the wood-headed constable, Elbow. Eiry Thomas strikes the greatest contrast with her engaging, soft voiced Julietta and a real ‘jack the lad’ Lucio.

But how do we get here, here is seventeenth century Vienna but with her Brechtian touch Hodge has ensured that the audience, sitting on four sides of the stage in this beautiful early twentieth century building with its classical columns and crystal chandeliers are not getting any history lesson . As with most, if not all, of his plays Shakespeare gives us a situation as relevant today as it was five hundred years ago and most probably will be five hundred years hence. takis’ assortment of costumes and warmly coloured set design adds to the feeling of timelessness in this production.

Shakespeare doesn’t tell us exactly why Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna decides to take a break from his duties, maybe he feels his dukedom is in a bit of a moral decline and that under the strict rule of Angelo, who the duke appoints as his deputy, things may improve. But of course the Duke isn’t going anywhere at all. He disguises himself as a friar in order to keep an eye on what goes on. Robert Bowman is able to capture this many faceted character with a comfortable ease and as ‘master of ceremonies’ deliciously brings the play to its comfortable and delightful end.

Both Ifan Meredith’s characters are all-round baddies. With his high moral attitude he condemns Claudio to death and in his backless dress, as Mistress Overdone he is the height of fornication. Meredith tackles both these roles with a convincing relish. Claudio’s sister Isabella is a novice nun, a very attractive novice nun. In her costume, half nun and half ravishing beauty Kezia Burrows gives us a ravishing performance. She pleads with Angelo to reverse his decision on Claudio. The price he demands is the body of this young beauty. Yet another dilemma. The duke in his friar’s disguise is not too pleased with the way he sees things going. He gets Claudio, Julietta and Isabella sorted out and instructs Angelo , who at one point he did commit to death, to marry his previous betrothed Mariana – lucky chap. In this role Anita Reynolds has sang and acted with a great sensual touch of abandonment.

When the Duke first appointed Angelo to step into his shoes he also appointed one Escalus to assist him. This underplayed yet superb performance was a very captivating highlight of this warm and rewarding evening of excellent theatre.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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