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Measure for measure. (Bell Shakespeare at the Playhouse)

By Thumper 11 November 2005 4

Okay, I did say I would attempt to write something about the above which i just happened to see last night at the playhouse. And so;

Sensing that Vienna is sinking deeper and deeper into vice, the Duke decides to leave the town, appointing a deputy to clean up the city in his absence. This achieves a double objective for the Duke in that he avoids the growing discontent about his role and at the the same time, to test the integrity of his deputy, Angelo.

However, the Duke’s departure from public live is in fact a ruse as he disguises himself as a monk and hides away at a local abbey so as to watch as events unfold.

Meanwhile, Claudio, has managed to get his mistress pregnant and Angelo, a puratanical and severe deputy, revives an ancient, but largely forgotten law against fornication out of wedlock. Claudio is sentenced to death.

Isabella, a young novice nun and Claudio’s sister, goes to Angelo to plead for his life but Angelo is suddenly overtaken by lust for this young chaste woman and promises to spare Claudio’s live if Isabella sleeps with him.

The Duke, in disguise, meets with Angelo in gaol and hears of the way that Angelo is running the town and so arranges for Angelo’s former fiancée, Mariana, whom he spurned, to impersonate Isabella and sleep with the lecherous Angelo.

All seems to be going to the Duke’s plans when Angelo reneges on the promise and Angelo’s death is imminent.

The Duke then reveals himself and cleverly arranges to meet Angelo in front of the people and manages to get a confession out of him that he indeed blackmailed Isabella for the live of her brother. Claudio is saved and gets to marry his pregnant girl whilst Angelo is condemned to the gallows. The Duke however, gives him a chance to right previous wrongs and thus he marries Mariana, making her a respected and wealthy woman.

The Duke asks for Isabella’s hand in marriage but we are left not knowing the outcome of this proposal.


The Duke: Sean O’Shea
Angelo: Christopher Stollery
Lucio; Matthew Moore
Pompey, a pimp: Darren Gilshenan
Escalus, a councillor: Robert Alexander
Claudio: Timothy Walter
Isabella: Tamsin Carroll
Abhorson: Julian Garner
Barnardine: david Hynes
Mistress Overdone; Gracy Lears
Friar peter: Garry Scale
Constable Elbow: Paul Eastway
Marianna: Michelle Doake

The play itself was in two acts and I thoroughly enjoyed it although it didn’t appeal to me as much as ‘Richard the Third’ and ‘the Master has two servants’. I would have to say that it became a little ponderous about halfway through Act I with Isabella, played by Tamsin Carroll, appearing to pause for too long on dramatic breaks as well as being a little too overdramatic. Having said this, she was convincing as the wronged Isabella.

After this slight lull in proceeding the play then roared forward with typical Shakespeare gusto and swept the audience along with its plots, sub-plots, twists and turns.

Angelo, played by Christopher Stollery, was very wooden, and at times his nasally voice became quite annoying, yet, given that he is one of the major characters he played the part staidly and admirably.

The Duke was played by Sean O’Shea to perfection. His timing and humour were spot on and his rich voice carried superbly in the playhouse. His sense of irony was also superb and he tends to carry himself on stage much larger than he is in reality.

All the other actors were quite competent and nothing more could have been asked from them although I would have liked to have seen Darren Gilshenan in a more exposed and challenging role, having seen him previously in Bell Shakespeare productions.

Robert Alexander, as Escalus, played his, albeit rather unchallenging but large role, very well although Lucio, Matthew Moore seemed to play his character a little to over the top and seemed not quite suited to the part. In his defence he was generally the comic relief and played this well.

One would also have to give high praise to the set designers and builders as it was simply superb.

All in all, I would suggest that anyone interested in Shakespeare or simply in theatre should go and see this play. It is not one of his better known plays, in fact I’d never heard of it, but it was certainly worth my money.

If I was a wanky reviewer I’d give it a mark out of ten, but I’m not, so I won’t. You’ll have to go and see it for yourselves.

What’s Your opinion?

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4 Responses to
Measure for measure. (Bell Shakespeare at the Playhouse)
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Thumper 11:25 am 14 Nov 05

Hey Col,

okay, maybe I should wait until after the run is completed.

Bloody good though wasn’t it.


colsim 11:15 am 14 Nov 05

Hey Thumper – I’m glad I didn’t read the review – you kind of give a lot away don’t you think?

Anyways, I loved it and liked the dramatic pauses, gives you plenty of time to scan the actors reactions.

I particularly liked the way you could see stuff that still relates today in that war on terror, power corrupts etc etc vein.

Definitely see it if you get the chance.

Just going out now to buy me some red board (pimp) pants

Spot the wog 9:53 am 11 Nov 05

after seeing the Matinee yesterday i was extremely pleased on the quality that Bell has put into it. It is in english that we can all understand without the need to consult an old english dictionary to understand some of the harder words
A good comical piece with a beautiful design by Robert Kemp and a fantastic score by Phillip Johnston, it is slightly more for adults, covering naughty themes but anyone over 15 will enjoy it.

colsim 9:39 am 11 Nov 05

Going to see this tonight so for the sake of spoilers I’m not actually going to read this post before commenting(I’m sure it’s not the first time this has happened here 🙂 but I’ll put in my two bob’s worth tomorrow.

Haven’t seen a bad Bell production yet though, so looking forward to it.

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