WORTH A LOOK? Young Vic: *****
The Globe: ****
WHEN: Young Vic 14/10 (matinee), runs to 14/11. The Globe 13/10 (matinee), last performance 17/10
Is Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure a tragedy or a comedy? It’s currently being played in an anarchic, sex doll-laden, rock’n’roll version at the Young Vic and more traditionally at The Globe.
There’s so much that’s brilliant about Measure For Measure but in 2015 the plotting occasionally seems odd. It is the story of novice Isabella who pleads with the puritanical Angelo to save her brother Claudio under the watchful eye of the Duke of Vienna who is posing as a meddling friar.
But if the Duke has such strong feelings for Isabella, why doesn’t he tell her earlier about her brother’s fate? Why does the Duke retreat from sight? Why is Angelo so easily deceived by the woman he claims to love?
At the Young Vic director Joe Hill-Gibbins presents us with a Duke who is an absent, almost God-like figure which makes more sense in a play which seems to be about the dangers of extremism.
At The Globe Brendan O’Hea is positively chewing the scenery with Lucio’s campery as he is entrusted to tell Isabella of her brother’s plight. Yet his fate doesn’t quite fit with The Globe’s comic version.
At the Young Vic the plotting is tighter and the running time cut by more than an hour to a far more celluloid-friendly version. We have rapping, Alanis Morissette and mobile cameras deployed too (as well as the aforementioned and unforgettable use of sex dolls) in a far more tragic version with klaxons honking and Romala Garai’s (from TV’s The Hour) steadfast yet finally forgiving Isabella, brilliantly played, grimacing understandably at the play’s conclusion. Ianno Jeremiah (from TV’s Humans) matches her in his plausibility for asking the unacceptable of his sister.
Back at The Globe Mariah Gale’s Isabella is almost a match for Garai’s and the venue does what it can be relied upon to do best: a faithful rendering of its source material with, in this case, plenty of fun with onstage musicians and players wandering through the audience flirting lustily with those standing up at the stage.
The Young Vic’s production pips it though as it is so brimming with anarchic ideas we can see it transferring to the West End. It’s so confidently Americanised that it’s also ripe for a successful Broadway transfer.