And, where productions of Shakespeare's Richard II only very occasionally hint that the King's relationship with his favourites might be homosexual, here Edward II's is saliva-swappingly obvious. Whether it was so in Marlowe's time I don't know, but what the National has created is a very passionate, energetic and refreshing piece utilising multimedia which bursts the production out of the confines of the traditional performance space.
The stage has a simple carpeted dias behind which are the backs of scenery flats which make up a room we can't see inside but for glimpses through windows and doors. Around the edges and with views right to the back of the cavernous Olivier stage are racks of costumes, props and pieces of furniture.
The play is launched with a count down of images of English monarchs projected on two huge screens either side of the stage. Starting with the Queen we head back through history arriving at the image of the medieval King Edward II as played by John Heffernan. On the stage is the man himself, in regal splendor about to be crowned, accompanied by a rousing chorus of the national anthem.
Celebratory feelings are soon forgotten when the King withdraws with his nobles to an ante-chamber - the 'room' at the back - to discuss matters of state. What goes on inside is relaid by hand-held video cameras via the screens. The root of the disquiet is the King's desire to have his favourite Gaveston (Kyle Soller) returned from exile, something the nobles are vehemently opposed to.