Review: the smutty, energetic and chaotic Measure for Measure, Young Vic theatre
The Duke (Zubin Varla) is telling the audience of his plans to leave Angelo (Paul Ready) in charge of Vienna in the hope that he will clean things up. Behind him is a huge pile of blow up dolls, which the citizen's of Vienna have just been throwing around, the phallus on one of male dolls just to the left of the Duke waggles distractingly. This is Measure for Measure Young Vic style.
It is a strange play that has elements that are often difficult to reconcile in a modern context - the Duke claiming Isabella (Romola Garai) for his bride when she has just been nearly raped and blackmailed by Angelo.
The Cheek By Jowl Russian version at the Barbican earlier this year was sexy, brutal and had an air of danger. Joe Hill-Gibbin's production is by contrast smutty, energetic and occasionally chaotic.
The stage is divided into two with the rear separated by a wooden screen which has both a door through which characters enter and exit but also slides away to reveal a large space. The to-ing and fro-ing between the two spaces can get a bit chaotic at times and the pace is such that some familiarity with the story is helpful.
Often when the screen is in place a live camera feed projects images of what is going on out of view. The rear space in the main represents the prison where Angelo has locked up the many that have broken his strict laws including Isabella's brother Claudio (Ivanno Jeremiah). It is where all the blow up dolls end up with Pompey amusingly using them to represent prisoners at one point.
Startling close ups of actors faces are projected onto the back wall sometimes as a live back drop to other things that are happening at the front of the stage. But for all the close ups this production lacks some deeper emotion. Garai's Isabella is impassioned but her interactions with her supposedly much loved brother are distant. It makes for an anticlimatic final reveal when she discovers Claudio is actually alive.
You can catch Measure for Measure at the Young Vic until 14 November and it is approximately one hour and 50 without an interval.
Easy one this Romola was in The Hour with Mr W.