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.


Kathryn Warner said...

Wow, this sounds absolutely great - how cool to be so close to the actors, and it sounds really sexy! :-) Glad you enjoyed it!

Gabriele C. said...

Sounds like a great experience indeed.

Seems the UK has to learn about tolerance. Our minister for foreign affairs recently married his boyfriend and no one cared (in a negative way; there were lots of congratulations). Other MPs are openly living with same sex partners and I haven't heard that they got nasty mails. There may be some but it's not bad enough to warrant a note in the media.

Anerje said...

Kathryn - I'm still 're-living it' - it was such a wonderful experience!

Gabriele - sadly, I know the murder the guy is referring to - a couple of drunken women battered a man who was holding hands with his partner in Trafalgar square, and he hit his head and died. It's shocking this can still happen today.

Mr. DIEGO said...

Come and see "Weak Edward" an amazing comedy version of Edward ii at The Rose Theatre.
Great review at