Measure for Measure for Measure for Measure. Directed by Josie Rorke, this Shakespearean play takes place twice in one night. The first half keeps to the traditional setting of 1604 imagined by the playwright, but the 2nd half reimagines the play like never before. The two leads exchange roles in a modern day setting. The interesting thing about this play is that the Shakespearean lines are the same in the 1st and the 2nd half. The only a shift is the one of roles and setting; the dialogues remain the same.
In the first half, there is a hierarchical, divine world; the Duke gives Angelo charge of the city over Escalus. Hayley Atwell plays the robust and religious sister Isabella, pleading with Viennese deputy Angelo (Jack Lowden) to save her brother Claudio (Sule Rimi) from execution for his infidelity. Angelo gives Isabella a proposal: sleep with him, and her brother is freed from his death sentence. When Isabella threatens to expose Angelo’s proposal, Angelo says “Who will believe thee, Isabel?”. This line made the audience shift in their seats. Knowing full well how this line still bares an enormous importance in our society of today.
Isabella then hatches a plan with an undercover Duke Vincentio (Nicholas Burns) disguised as a cleric, who tricks Angelo into sleeping with Mariana (Helena Wilson). Following such event, the Viennese deputy Angelo is thus forced to marry Mariana and Claudio goes on free. However, The Duke declares that Isabella has to marry him. The lights then go down with Isabella creaming in the Duke's face. Then, at such turning point in the play, the roles switch. Isabella is now a deputy in the modern world, and Angelo is a devout Christian, the wronged party seeking to save his brother. The play restarts now with different people in different positions.
The performance by the actors is effortless, each of them become their characters naturally. Atwell and Lowden seem perfect for both their roles, they both can play the villain and the victim with conviction. The Duke played by Burns comes across as a very likeable individual, The audience's heart goes out for both Mariana and Vincentio. Rimi one of the only constants in the play is a joy to watch both times, he portrays Claudio's helplessness and frustration perfectly.
In my view the part set in 1604 is much more interesting, the 2018 part seems forced. Though the modern-day version does get more laughs, it is more a laughter at than one that is with. I'd recommend watching the play as it is a fresh take on Shakespeare and is actually relatable as well as relevant.
28th September – 1st December
Evenings Mon-Sat: 7.30pm
Matinees Thu and Sat: 2.30pm
Running time: 2 hours and 40 minutes including a 15-minute interval
Stalls: £40, £30
Circle: £30, £20, £10