Unsurprisingly for such an iconic play, Charlotte Vickers’ production is not the first to hit the Oxford drama scene. While it is exciting to produce work in dialogue with a rich theatrical history, a glance over the Cherwell archives reveals a rather checkered history when it comes to Oxford productions of Edward II.
Let’s hope our reviewer this year will be more impressed than Ellie Wade was with Francesca Petruzzi’s “comically bad” direction in 2012. Sounds pretty harsh, you might think, but Wade supports her damning conclusions with such examples as, “I think critics are entitled to have a pop when that ‘glittering’ crown you’re monologuing about came free with a Happy Meal and weighs visibly less than a Satsuma.”
She went on to describe the much-hyped gay element of the play as “a lot of groping and not much chemistry” and noted that three actors had “an amusing habit of standing in height order.” Vickers should take note: this publication does not take kindly to height-related stage direction. Big no-no.
While far removed from the dire straits of 2012, Cherwell also had reservations about Tom Richards’ 2008 production. Like Vickers, Richards used a modern setting, and certainly, “the sweet-sour smell of weed, star-cross’d lovers, and violence” all sound pretty evocative, although perhaps reviewer Chen-Li Yiu should avoid mixing her Shakespeare-Marlowe metaphors.
However, modern settings clearly have their pitfalls, as she went on to note that the actors seem, “never quite sure whether they are playing nobles or gangsters.” Second note to Vickers: make sure your actors know which parts they’re playing. What would Oxford theatre do without Cherwell’s sage advice?