Edward II

There was a great opening to Christopher Marlowe’s tragedy Edward II at Greenwich Theatre. To an electronica soundtrack the cast, in suits and ties, milled around the stripped-back stage in slo-mo as if they were corporate drones, staring ahead mindlessly or scowling at one another whenever their path was blocked. It set the scene perfectly for a claustrophobic horror show that neatly drew a parallel between medieval totalitarianism and the retrenched, nationalistic regimentation we increasingly see in the modern world. The crushing air of doom was further intensified by some fine acting, particularly Timothy Blore as the king, Alicia Charles as his ignored queen, Oseloka Obi as Piers Gaveston, the object of his gay passion, and Stephen Smith as his nemesis Mortimer. And the play’s notoriously gruesome climax was well worked with the use of copious plastic sheets and a huge candlestick. But director Rickey Dukes had adapted the piece to cram Marlowe’s majestic words and deeds into only 90 minutes, which meant that plot development was at best staccato while nuance went out of the window completely. That was a shame because this promised to be a really interesting new look at a play written more than 400 years ago by a brilliant young man who had been murdered just down the road in Deptford. An extra 15 minutes could have made this a brilliant production rather than just a fast and furious, though stylish, romp.

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