Review: Edward II

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Tom Richards’s production of Edward II, by Christopher Marlowe, is complete with smoky night clubs, the sweet-sour smell of weed, star-cross’d lovers, and violence. Like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, the production has moved an Elizabethan play into a modern gangster setting. Edward II highlights the correspondance between the power game in Marlowe’s early modern court and the one-upmanship in the mafia world, adding in political controversy from Edward’s homoerotic affairs. However, exciting as this premise is, the actual execution of the play falls slightly short of expectation.The play explores the complications that love causes in a political context. Ben Galpin captures Edward’s anguish as a young man yearning, but is not so convincing when playing Edward as king. Krishna Omkar is convincing in the role of Gaveston styled as Edward’s melancholic lover. Arabella Lawson as Queen Isabella plays a bitter, desperate wife fallen from her husband’s favour, but the political intrigue surrounding her, including a connection to the IRA (a modern equivalent of Marlowe’s French intrigue) is not quite convincing. They portray passion, yet the shades of passions are rarely identified and distinguished.The staging of Elizabethan drama in a modern-styled production is problematic and aspects borrowed from both periods are never quite brought together. The actors change awkwardly between their dual identities, never quite sure whether they are playing nobles or gangsters. This is a production which overwhelms and excites the viewer with its modern adaptation of a Marlowe play, yet it has not quite fulfilled that potential. Just as Edward in the play could personally testify, it is never easy to balance politics and love in life; in theatre, the same applies. By Chen-yi Liu

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