Monday, 21 February 2011

A Review of Edward II at the Rose Theatre

Thanks to Kathryn’s wonderful blog, I finally got the chance to see Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Edward II’. As look would have it, I already had one play booked for the weekend of February 19th. I usually go about once a month, and meet up with a few friends. One of my friends is a very keen theatregoer, and when I mentioned there was a matinee performance of Edward II on February 20th, she went ahead and booked it. She had never been to the Rose, but we’re both fans of the Globe.

The Rose is not as easy to find as the Globe, as it is an archaeological site. We found it and entered through a small door. There’s no foyer or box office as such, just a small office and a lady making tea and coffee. I suspected the theatre would only hold about 100 to 150 – and then we entered it, through a pulled back curtain. There were about 40 chairs, if that, arranged in 3 rows. The theatre was in darkness. We decided to sit in the front row, and for some reason, it didn’t dawn on me that the stage was the small wooden area in front of me! I would be able to stare ‘Piers Gaveston’ right in the eye, as it were.

There was no scenery and very few props. The actors costumes consisted of jeans, boots and t-shirts which had heraldic beasts printed on them to let you know who they were, and each actor then worse something else related to their character – so Edward II had his crown and a short, purple cape, Piers had a sword and pearls pinned to his t-shirt, and Isabella vamped it up with a purple cape and purple skirt slit to the thigh with a stocking top showing and a pair of Christian Loubotin shoes. The actors also had to ‘double up’ on parts, some playing 3 or 4 parts. Props consisted of a throne that doubled as the infamous table, a box and of course, the ‘poker’, which even glowed red.

In the programme, the director talked about Edward’s sexuality and the relevance of being gay today – pointing out a recent homophobic murder in Trafalgar Square and the blackmail of MPs over their private lives. Consequently, there is plenty of kissing and fondling between Edward and Gaveston, and you are made to feel the hostility and hatred of the likes of Mortimer and Lancaster. Both actors were superb in their role. Zoe Teverson vamps it up as Isabella and when she returns to depose her husband, she wears leggings and spiked, knee-high laced-up boots with a concealed dagger in one of them. Matt Barber plays Edward II, and at one moment he is maddeningly weak, dishing out honours as he thinks them up, and then displaying the flashing Plantagenet temper as he tries to assert himself over the troublesome nobles. He makes a very pathetic Edward at the end of the play, arousing real sympathy. He looked an utter wretch, and the horror of his impending murder was built with real suspense. David North as Kent deserves praise as an agonised Kent, defending his brother’s right to rule as king but struggling to accept his decisions. Joseph Bader made an excellent Piers Gaveston. A mixture of swagger, arrogance and passion. He asserts himself over Edward as soon as they both share the stage, and both berates and encourages Edward to take a stand over the nobles. And the contempt between Edward, Piers and Isabella is present every time they share the stage.

I’ve never seen a play like this before – with such a small audience and stage, but it was one of the best theatre experiences I’ve ever had! The two hours flew by and I was engrossed in the play. It didn’t matter about a lack of scenery etc, because the audience were right there in the heart of the play and totally engrossed in it. Behind the stage was the archaeological site of the original Rose theatre, and it made the performance that much more special.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Amazing Henry VIII mural

Reading my newspaper on Saturday, I was stunned to come across an article about a recently discovered mural of Henry VIII. It's stunning! To think that something like this was just waiting to be uncovered........Always makes me wonder how many other portraits/objects are waiting to be discovered. Here are some photos of the mural - just look at that face! He looks truly terrifying. It's a real change from the Holbein portraits we are used to seeing - and nothing like Jonathan Rhys Meyers :>

Here's the story behind the mural - from The Daily Telegraph
A unique medieval mural of Henry VIII has been discovered by a couple renovating their Tudor home.
Angie Powell, 57, and her husband Rhodri, 56, uncovered the 20ft wide, six ft high, wall painting as they peeled back wallpaper and mortar from their grade II listed home.
The priceless picture, which shows the monarch sitting on his throne wearing his crown and holding a sceptre, is thought to have been painted shortly after the house was built at the turn of the 15th century.
At the time it was the home of Thomas Cranmer, the Archdeacon of Taunton who went onto become the Archbishop of Canterbury and helped Henry break from the Catholic Church and set up the Church of England.
Though the artist is unknown, it is thought to be unique.
The only other known mural of the King, painted in the Palace of Whitehall, was destroyed when it burned down in the 16th century.
Michael Liversidge, former head of history of art department at Bristol University, said the discovery was "totally fascinating" and of "enormous importance and significance".
"It would have been an expression of loyalty," he said.
"Cranmer could have done it as a tribute to Henry and that would make it an object of great importance and significance. It is a unique image."
One thing that bothers me about this report is that Cranmer was already Archbishop of Canterbury when the mural was painted. A minor detail, perhaps, but worth drawing attention to.