EDWARD II

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EDWARD II

Postby Barry » Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:15 pm

The Royal Exchange, Manchester, September 21 2011

One of the main repercussions of my reduced finances is the lack of theatre going, and theatre going to be in what sustains me, seriously. So when free tickets were offered to my favourite space and one of my favourite plays, I grabbed, nay grovelled, with almost indecent haste. Such undignified behaviour was rewarded.

One of the jewels, and they sport many jewels, of the Royal Exchange's crown was a production of Edward II back in the mid 80's with Ian McDarmaid, the very beautiful Michael Grandage as Gaveston, and directed by Nicholas Hytner. Superemely shocking and with dazzling, almost surreal theatricality. This ranks as equal in my mind, thanks to a stunning, visceral physical performance by Chris New as Edward II, and a fast lean production rife with jaw dropping stagecraft - full of moments that make you realise why theatre is unbeatable, such as the aftermath of Edward's gruesome death. He's doing what.....!!! And this was after the other 'he's doing what' moment. I loved Emma Cuniffe's Isabella (though I still hear her as the Penguin in John and Karen'), usually such a heartless scheming bitch - here she was very sympathetic, especially as a mother and scorned wife. The actor playing Gaveston had a lot to live up to with the text, and didn't quite have the charisma in that role (how could he possibly fulfill what is written about him), but in a stroke of genius, he played Lightborn, and played him beautifully. I'm not sure the two parts have been doubled, and in doing so there's an enigmatic but satisfying symmetry. I'm not sure exactly what it means, and it can't have been a decsion made because the actor playing Gaveston is free by that time, and i'm sure half the audience didn't see the connection, but it gave a nice thrill. The whole of the last thirty minutes, of Edward's imprisonment, was staged so economically and with such disconcerting physicality....though thanks to a member of the audience taking a flash photo at just the wrong moment. I could not take my eyes off Chris New - his journey from immaculate King to broken, truly broken husk was beautifully detailed. I believed his infatuation even if I could not see it. He really did seem smaller by the end of the evening, and boy he must be cold and damp and aching by the end of the evening.
Just one moment of staging, with a large ensemble of drama students as policemen chasing the Earls and Dukes on and off the stage, threatened to bring the Keystone cops to mind.
But an amazing evening at my favourite space - also my most hated space as I am not working there!
Well done to the whole team, especially to Chris new. I have enjoyed him in Comedy of Errors and the Exchange's Hay Fever - always so physical and dynamic, but this performance takes him to a new level. Darn it, he was good.
I think I have seen about ten different productions of this play, and was in it at University as Baldock, among other characters, and have loved it. I can't imagine the shock it must have provoked four hundred and fifty years ago. The treatment of a King, and all the plotting, so removed from justice, still shock, and the death scene has to be one of the most tragic and undignified of all death scenes.
One criticism though, other than his name under the title of the play Christopher Marlowe has been ignored in the interesting programme. Attention must be paid, please.
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Re: EDWARD II

Postby Barry » Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:31 am

I dug out my original script from when I was in the play at university (scary how I can find it just like that amongst all the clutter of my house), and there were all my lines marked. I skimmed through the text, and the Exchange's version has been beautifully tightened and edited. On stage they kept Edward there for the last half an hour, instead of trouping on and off, even though he was meant to be in prison. Clever editing made this work. It is such great direct language. Hurray for Marlowe.
The images are still haunting me - the sheer energy of Chris New, and the theatrical coup of what happened to his body after Edward's death. Genius, but i can't give that away.
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