MEASURE FOR MEASURE @ Pop-up Globe gets 9/10

Measure for
Measure @ Pop-up Globe
Friday, October 18, 2019


In today’s world of #metoo, the continuing struggle for equality for all, and the often seemingly hopeless fight against the misuse of power by those who have it over those who don’t, Shakespeare’s problem play Measure for Measure is particularly difficult to stage. Written as a comedy, but with some pretty heady themes, there’s always the danger of making light of some fairly dark topics, and there are lots of choices for a director to make about how to stage some of the key moments in the play. Artistic Director for Pop-up Globe and Director of this iteration of Measure for Measure, Dr Miles Gregory, deftly deployed his incredibly talented cast to play up the comedy of this piece in all its boisterous, bawdy brilliance, without being afraid to tackle the heavier scenes with the gravity and suspense they deserve, creating a juxtaposition that made the occasional sudden grim scene all the more shocking. Excellently done, and perhaps a comment on the environment we find ourselves in today where there are some very serious things going wrong in the world while we distract ourselves with the most trivial of matters.

Despite Vienna’s very strict laws, its Duke, Vincentio (played by Jonathan Tynan-Moss) has let standards slip over the last 19 years, and the streets of Vienna are filled with more debauchery than ever. The duke decides to announce that he is leaving Vienna to travel to Poland on a diplomatic mission, and hands over control of the city to Angelo (Hugh Sexton), a power-hungry Puritan. The show opens with a rollickingly raucous musical number, side-splittingly hilarious while at the same time showing off the beautiful voices of the actors involved, accompanied brilliantly by musicians Oscar West and Alec Steedman, playing the violin, mandolin and even bagpipes later on in the show. Every one of the musical numbers throughout was also exceptionally well choreographed to ensure maximum hilarity, and the crowd really enjoyed every song.

As we have grown accustomed to with Pop-up Globe’s versions of The Bard’s plays, there was a perfect mix of authentic early-modern costumes as well as a sprinkling of modern-day costumes and props such as Elbow (played by Barry de Lore) dressed as a modern-day copper, a wheeled suitcase for Duke Vincentio to take on his travels, and even a sex toy, helping Measure for Measure to achieve yet another level of relatability to modern audiences. There was also a trademark little kiwi injection in this production, the executioner replying “Sweet as!” when told to provide his block and axe for an execution the next day, much to the crowd’s delight.

Every single actor did a magnificent job, with heaps of audience interaction. The actors had a responsive crowd primed to jeer at Lord Angelo or scream ‘hallelujah’ along with the Duke while he was disguised as a blind friar, who for some unknown reason adopted an American southern drawl in the style of an evangelistic preacher from the South – a strange yet delightfully funny and effective choice which the crowd absolutely adored. Along with Sexton and Tynan-Moss, the stand-out performer was Max Loban as Lucio, who brought an impressive physicality to a role he seemed born to play, lighting up every scene he was in. Clementine Mills also did a sterling job of playing Isabella in an energetic, witty, and no-nonsense performance. As a previous X-Press reviewer of another of Pop-up Globe’s shows has said, it is clear that every single actor has an intimate and deep understanding of the text, and this, in turn, makes it a breeze for anyone in the audience to make meaning out of Shakespeare’s English.

The delightful bawdiness of this version of Measure for Measure cannot be overstated. From Lucio (Max Loban) licking and kissing the face of a nun and exclaiming saucily “naughty nun!”, to one of the ladies-of-the-night screaming “Dip me in oil and feed me to the miners of Perth!”, plus threesome jokes involving Trump and ScoMo, the audience was in stitches for most of the show.

This production of Measure for Measure is a wonderful example of why Shakespeare’s plays are still revered and enjoyed more than 400 years later. His understanding of the human condition fills his plays with themes that are so universal they remain relevant to us to this day. Dr Gregory and the entire cast and crew have done a fantastic job of bringing the delight of Shakespeare back to the everyman with a punny, bawdy, delightful version of Measure for Measure, where nothing seems off-limits.


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