Simon McBurney / Complicite, Measure for Measure

Review in Issue 16-3/4 | Autumn 2004

Written between Elizabeth I’s death and James I’s coronation, Shakespeare’s problem play reflects the uncertainty of its time with ambiguous characters and dubious moral behaviour. Leaving his deputy (Angelo) in charge, a ruling Duke feigns a foreign trip allowing him to observe his deputy’s behaviour. Angelo attempts to bring moral order to Vienna, but falls foul of the demands of his own libido.

Director Simon McBurney, displaying his usual flair for inventive staging, brings a coherence to this challenging text with contemporary references to the judicial system and the flexible ‘morality’ of our world leaders. The ensemble’s continuous presence and the use of varying speeds in scene changes clearly create the contrast between the public world, set against the unseen darkness of reality. Most striking about this production is the clarity with which the play trips off the stage, aided in no small part by the physically charged interpretation of the characters. Both Naomi Frederick as Isabella, the pious novice nun charged with surrendering her virginity to save her brother’s life, and Angus Wright as a noble Provost, utilise electrifying physical tension to articulate the emotional strain in which they find themselves.

In this play, it is words that deceive and dissemble while actual deeds speak the truth of the characters. A point articulated through the blending of silhouette and live video images, creating a striking sense of voyeurism for the audience and reflecting the Duke’s continual voyeuristic presence, and firmly foregrounding the idea that only seeing is believing, McBurney’s brand of visually rooted theatre has found an ideal text.

Topics
Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 2004

This article in the magazine

Issue 16-3/4
p. 26