Performed to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, Lazarus Theatre Company’s visceral and strikingly contemporary revival of Christopher Marlowe’s play interrogates far more than simply the infamous king’s sexuality.
With strip-lighting, an assortment of haunting masks hanging on the walls, and a red telephone initially centre-stage, the uncompromising modern rendering of Marlowe’s Elizabethan text from designer Sorcha Corcoran and lighting designer Ben Jacobs is immediately apparent. Performed in traverse, with the majority of the cast on-stage throughout, the powerful and brave staging from director Ricky Dukes increases the intimacy and intense dissection of the play’s themes.
The brutalising language of the play proceeds at breakneck speed and with great gusto. So much so, in fact, that with the significant cuts to the original, those unfamiliar with the text may find the experience a little disorientating. With fast, often only implied changes of setting in Marlowe’s text, it can be a difficult play to perform, and credit must go to the entire cast for their absolute commitment and sustained intensity, with the vicious rhetoric of the weak king and the English barons very convincing.
Luke Ward-Wilkinson’s fragile and vacillating Edward is aided by his brittle, vulnerable voice, and he does a very impressive job of portraying the king’s many aspects, as homosexual, husband, monarch, father, and, ultimately, victim.
Likewise, Jamie O’Neill, as Young Mortimer, Edward’s strongest antagonist, finely portrays the character’s increasing Machiavellianism as his grip on power and treason becomes more successful. Of all the actors, special credit goes to him for the keenest appreciation of what Ben Jonson called Marlowe’s ‘mighty line’.
In its aesthetic and characterisation, at times the play seems to take inspiration from Derek Jarman’s 1991 film production of Edward II, and Lakesha Cammock’s sonorous yet emotionally complex Isabella gives Tilda Swinton’s femme fatale a run for her money, whilst, perhaps, adding an added emotional complexity at the end of the play.
The production has several very satisfying surprises up its sleeve, one being the clever introduction of Edward II’s young son, which only serves to emphasise the boy’s estrangement from his mother, Isabella. Similarly, anyone au fait with anecdotal history or the play’s ending will be eager to see the adaptation of its shocking denouement. Suffice to say, Ricky Dukes and his cast do not disappoint.
Lazarus Theatre Company deserve huge credit for breathing new life into a challenging text, with their ambitious and adrenaline-fueled show.
Review by Ben Miller
The King is dead. His son, Edward II, is crowned King. His first act: to call home from banishment his lover, Gaveston.
“Why would you love him who the world hates so? Because he loves me more than all the world.”
Marlowe’s homoerotic epic comes to the stage in this all-new, all-male ensemble production. Marking 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, this production investigates, celebrates and explores identity and sexuality.
Edward II sees our return to The Tristan Bates Theatre and The Camden Fringe after our smash hit productions of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Coriolanus and Tamburlaine.
Edward II Luke Ward-Wilkinson
Queen Isabella Lakesha Cammock
Gaveston Bradley Frith
Kent Alex Zur
Mortimer Jamie O’Neill
Mortimer Senior Andrew Gallo
Warwick John Slade
Lancaster Stephen Emery
Pembroke David Clayton
All other roles played by the company
Writer Christopher Marlowe
Director Ricky Dukes
Designer Sorcha Corcoran
Costume Designer Cristiano Casimiro
Lighting Designer Ben Jacobs
Sound Designer Jack Barton
Dramaturge Sara Reimers
Stage Manager Charlotte R L Cooper
Assistant Director Dinos Psychogios
Company Photographer Adam Trigg
Production Graphic Designer Will Beeston
Associate Producer Gavin Harrington-Odedra
Lazarus Theatre presents Christopher Marlowe’s classic.
Adapted & Directed by Ricky Dukes
Tue 22 August – Sat 9 September
Tristan Bates Theatre
1A Tower St, Covent Garden