MEASURE FOR MEASURE
Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin
25/06/2019 - 29/06/2019
31/07/2019 - 04/08/2019
20/08/2019 - 24/08/2019
Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson
03/07/2019 - 07/07/2019
Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton
27/08/2019 - 31/08/2019
Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch
12/07/2019 - 20/07/2019
04/09/2019 - 07/09/2019
Join our all-singing, all-dancing cast as we take a wild romp through the seedy streets of 17th century Vienna, meeting larger-than-life characters who will charm you even as they pick your pocket. In a city of brothels, louche lads-about-town and illegitimate children, the mayor and a young nun meet in private. She wants to save her brother’s life. He is happy to help – but at what price? Enjoy a wild and hilarious night out, directed by Pop-up Globe’s Artistic Director Miles Gregory.
Playing in repertoire with HAMLET.
25-29 June 2019
BUY TICKETS DUNEDIN
3-7 July 2019
BUY TICKETS NELSON
Isaac Theatre Royal
12-20 July 2019
BUY TICKETS CHRISTCHURCH
31 July-4 August 2019
BUY TICKETS WELLINGTON
20-24 August 2019
BUY TICKETS NAPIER
Clarence St Theatre
27-31 August 2019
BUY TICKETS HAMILTON
4-8 September 2019
BUY TICKETS NEW PLYMOUTH
EXTRAORDINARY STYLE OF SHAKESPEARE HITS THEATRES AROUND THE COUNTRY THIS WINTER
7 venues nationwide
It’s sold over half-a-million tickets, performed over 1000 shows, and wowed audiences across Australasia with its performances. Now, for the first time ever, the magic of Shakespeare performed in a style for which the Pop-up Globe Theatre Company has become famous is coming to a theatre near you!
The multi-award-winning Auckland-based company today announces it is taking its extraordinary critically-acclaimed productions of the most famous play ever written Hamlet, and wild comedy Measure for Measure, to seven New Zealand cities this year.
Through the genius of its trademark set design, audiences in Dunedin, Nelson, Christchurch, Wellington, Napier, Hamilton and New Plymouth will be transported to the 17th century, treated to a playful and fun style of theatre they’re unlikely to have experienced before.
Don’t just take our word for it. Come see for yourself what over 500,000 people are raving about.
Hamlet audiences will feel the Prince of Denmark’s pain, and perhaps be splashed with his blood, as this swashbuckling tragedy swings into action culminating in a breathtaking duel, while those attending Measure for Measure can expect a wild romp through the seedy streets of 17th century Vienna for a night of Moulin Rouge, Shakespeare-style.
The shows feature a specially designed touring set that recreates the incredible scenic design of Pop-up Globe Auckland, the beautiful bespoke Jacobean costumes that have become a hallmark of Pop-up Globe performances, and the extraordinary lively performances of Shakespeare’s masterworks that have won the company awards across Australasia, including eight theatre awards in Sydney last year.
Pop-up Globe’s founder and artistic director Dr Miles Gregory says the tour is in response to the huge number of requests the company has received from throughout New Zealand.
“Now, for the first time, we’ve created a touring set and shows that bring all the magic of Pop-up Globe performances – the blood, the incredible audience connection, the dances and song, and above all the remarkable art of Shakespeare done well – to existing theatres, meaning that we can share the extraordinary experience of Pop-up Globe with people all over New Zealand. We can’t wait to pop up in your local theatre and show you why the Pop-up Globe theatre experience is so popular.”
Audiences and critics on both sides of the Tasman have raved about Pop-up Globe with the New Zealand Herald stating Pop-up Globe is “world-class” and Broadway World NZ describing their production of Hamlet as a “theatrical triumph.”
The Melbourne Age described their 2017/18 Melbourne Season as “the best night of theatre ever”, selling 146,000 tickets in a season that lasted over 17 weeks in Australia’s arts capital. The company’s shorter Sydney season was close to sold out, with some 105,000 Sydney-siders attending in their droves, eager to discover the Pop-up Globe experience for themselves with Australian Stage calling it “a remarkable achievement in out-of-the-box theatre making”.
Dr Gregory is confident the touring model will allow audiences to share in the magic that audiences of Pop-up Globe theatre itself have been raving about.
“There are many important elements to the Pop-up Globe experience – and the theatre surroundings are just one of them,” Dr Gregory explains. “What’s most important is the performance on stage and our actors’ relationship to the audience. Pop-up Globe shows are fast-paced, beautifully costumed, funny, and make a very strong connection with our audiences. We have designed an extraordinary set that recreates the atmosphere of our Auckland home theatre, including seating for some lucky audience members on stage, in the heart of the action.”
The two touring productions, Hamlet and Measure for Measure, transfer from the company’s Auckland season, where they’ve won critical acclaim and played to sell-out houses.
About Pop-up Globe
Pop-up Globe aims to rediscover and bring back to life the extraordinary experience of Shakespeare’s own audiences through his own work performed in the space and style his own company did.
Pop-up Globe is a three-storey, 16-sided, 700-person capacity theatre. It unites cutting-edge scaffold technology with a 400-year-old design to transport audiences back in time. No matter where they sit or stand in the theatre, audience members are never more than 15 metres from the heart of the action on stage. Sometimes they’ll even find themselves in the play.
Pop-up Globe features all the spectacular theatrical trickery of the Jacobean era, including cannons, flaming arrows, hundreds of litres of fake blood, and hundreds of beautiful bespoke period costume pieces specially constructed by the Pop-up Globe in-house wardrobe department.
Adrian Hooke – Claudio
Amber Blease – Frith
Asalemo Tofete – Provost
Barry de Lore – Elbow
Bryony Skillington – Mistress Overdone
Clementine Mills – Isabella
Frith Horan – Pompey
Hugh Sexton – Angelo
John Bayne – Swing
Jonathan Tynan-Moss – Duke
Lydia Raynes – Juliet
Max Loban – Lucio
Salesi Le'ota – Friar
Serena Cotton – Escalus
Summer Millet – Mariana
Artistic & Production
Malcom Dale – Prop & Set Designer
Brigid Costello – Director of Movement
Miles Gregory – Founder & Artistic Director / Director (Measure for Measure)
Alexander James Holloway – Head of Stage Combat & Special Effects
David Lawrence – Associate Artistic Director / Director (Hamlet)
Hannah Lobelson – Costume Designer
Paul McLaney – Director of Music
Kirstie O'Sullivan – Voice Consultant
Alice Pearce – Producer
Malcom Dale – Head of Scenic Workshop
Imogen Davies – Scenic Intern
Duncan Milne – Lead Construction
Antonio Te Maioha – Scenic Construction
Sophie Alexandra – Stage Manager
Elise Baker – Stage Manager
Cat Creighton – Dresser
Rose Miles-Watson – Head of Touring Wardrobe
Duncan Milne – Tour Technical Manager / Lighting Design
Chanelle Muirhead – Company Manager / Stage Manager
Louise Paterson – Wigs & Maintenance
Ashley Salter – Dresser
Rachel Watkinson – Tour Assistant
Jonathan Wilce – Rehearsal Stage Manager
Beautifully balances the comic and bawdy with the serious and heartfelt
Review by Victoria Kerr 06th Sep 2019
What a night! Delightfully delicious! Gorgeously bawdy.
The show opens with a charmingly playful spilling of the characters from the stage into the audience. From this moment, you know you’re not in for a ‘traditional’ Shakespearean production. This adaptation grabs the audience by the ‘short and curlies’ and throws them into the action. Part pantomime, part burlesque, thoroughly entertaining – the experience is invigorating, thrilling, exciting, and thought-provoking. Count the superlatives.
If the intent is to ‘hold… the mirror up to [human] nature,’ this is certainly achieved. The morally corrupt court of Venice is encapsulated by the bawdy brothel, patrons and prostitutes, and the raucous and lewd behaviour of the opening scenes. Connections with today’s world are apparent not just in gloriously cheeky props, but in the nature and abuse of power, corruption and deception, sexuality and virtue – true and false – that are explored. Fake news, false testimony, victim-blaming, victim-silencing are all here, beautifully wrapped up in an amazing visual, vocal, loud, brash and stimulating production.
The costumes are perfectly over-the-top and the superb ensemble cast are captivating in their lascivious behaviour, their engagement with the audience, and their performances. The music is used to underpin the comedy, drama and action and the musical numbers are simply divine. The physicality of the acting cannot be understated – the actors engage their whole bodies to explore the themes, express emotion and manipulate the audience. Some of it is subtle, much is not.
The subtlety of the acting, however, cannot be ignored. We move from hilarious, physical and verbal comedy to deep poignancy at the heart of Isabella’s plight and moral dilemma and The Duke’s search for truth and purpose. Clementine Mills, as Isabella, is powerful in her horror and disgust at the betrayal of her virtue by the men around her. Angelo, played by Hugh Sexton, is deliciously unpleasant as the hypocritical moral guardian of Vienna tempted by lust and power, and Max Loban is hilariously over-the-top as the charmingly lewd and manipulative Lucio.
Jonathan Tynan-Moss is also captivating as The Duke. Despite his manipulation and deceiving of all those around him, you cannot help being beguiled by his charm and search for virtue and truth. Does he deserve Isabella? Probably not.
With so much going on, it is often difficult to know what to feast one’s eyes on. Measure for measure though, this production beautifully balances the comic and bawdy with the serious and heartfelt.
As for the women, we have the Madonna, virgin and prostitute archetypes which Shakespeare expertly exploits to allow us to consider the power dynamics inherent in a world where the men and women are judged by different standards and ‘virtue’ is cherished and challenged. Now, that certainly resonates in our #MeToo world, where suspected abusers are in the highest positions of power, and accusers’ testimony is belittled because of their gender. Productions such as this show why Shakespeare is still so relevant.
Visually, emotionally and intellectually stimulating, and stomach-achingly funny. Do not miss this show.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
An absolute masterclass in comedic Shakespearian performance
Review by Cate Prestidge 30th Aug 2019
Ladies and Gentlemen, start your adjectives!
A high energy, colourful ensemble led by the delicious Mistress Overdone (Bryony Skillington), cajole, caper and belt out bawdy banter as they usher us into the seedy streets of Vienna. The energetic ‘pre-show’ sets the dial to entertainment as the first act rolls seamlessly in. It’s a terrific, confident start and a precursor to a magnificent show.
Measure for Measure was chosen by company founder and director Dr Miles Gregory for its “relevant feel to contemporary society” and for the challenges that the script brings as a comedy, underpinned by darker elements.
Much like The Taming of the Shrew, it is often considered to be a difficult play in the modern context. At its heart is abuse of power over others, however, Gregory refuses to categorise it as ‘a problem play’ and focuses on its modern relevance and “how the play feels in performance”. He says “it’s definitely a comedy, albeit, one with a dark heart”. In the current context of #metoo and changing political times, it is extraordinarily relevant.
His approach of Playful Shakespeare, where each line is played out for all it can be, is very successful, and the 15 member cast of the Nottingham Players, are all over it, performing comic and tragic lines with huge humour, sincerity and at times, madcap energy.
I’m completely smitten by the players and just as I think I have a favourite, another one charms and beguiles. Our handsome Duke (Jonathan Tynan-Moss) revels in a diverse role and is supported beautifully by his foils, the outrageous Lucio (Max Loban) and moral enforcer Angelo (Hugh Sexton). Our female lead Isabella (Clementine Mills) is brave and strong (what a role model!) while Frith Horan is note perfect as the extremely naughty Pompey.
As Provost, Asalemo Tofete could have easily let his costume do the talking but was finely nuanced in his supporting role with every look and movement carrying meaning and humour, and then there’s winking Barry de Lore as Elbow, songstress Summer Milett as Mariana, and Serena Cotton as strong Escalus … Did I say smitten?
Accompanied by musicians Louie McGlashan and Oscar West, the cast is simply excellent; at ease with their characters and each other and strong in their physical comedy, stage use and interaction with the audience.
The production is supported by dozens of creative crew behind the scenes with a replica set designed for the tour and gorgeous bespoke Jacobean costumes.
If you’re not sure of the plot, do a 5 minute read before you go just to ease you in and prepare to be transported as this is an absolute masterclass in comedic Shakespearian performance and one of the best I’ve seen. With tickets priced for all ranges of budgets, you’d be mad not to grab the chance to see this exciting production.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Delightful romp with deeper insights into darkness
Review by Karen Beaumont 23rd Aug 2019
Now in their fourth season the Pop-Up Globe have finally taken to the road in what looks to be an extraordinarily successful run. One that, we hope, will see them coming back many more times.
Set in 1642, this production of Measure for Measure is a bawdy, outrageous romp through the pimp houses of Vienna and the increasingly Puritan stance that was closing them down at the time. It takes a deeper look at the dark side of power; at the old adage that increased power corrupts. At the same time it explores our capacity to show leniency and the power of women to achieve what they want in such a sexually exploited, male dominated space. A space that currently, with our tendency to blame and shame without recourse, seems as predominant in our own time as that of Shakespeare.
Dr Miles Gregory’s vision is both contemporary and Shakespearean, a seamless blend of old and new. From the moment we arrive we are drawn into the world of Vienna. Invited to attend the Duke’s ‘Surprise!’ party we become a part of the action. Like the groundlings who’ve gone before us we respond – we cheer, we boo, we cry – to a pantomimic farce that, for the most part, has us laughing till it hurts.
From the quixotic Spanish helmets of the guards in their precise red and blue stripes to Lucio’s Cavalier ‘Flashheart’ cloak and feathers, and the Chopine shoes of Madame Froth, the lavish costumes are a delight. Their designer, Chantelle Gerrard, can be applauded for her attention to detail. Peacock colours riot as the women of the pimp houses, resplendent in their layered, provocative skirts, mince and twerk their way across the stage: a stark contrast to the muted colours of the puritans who are suitably dour.
This highly experienced cast from the PuG’s Nottingham Company are slick and polished, the quick repartee mastered with style. With a cast of just thirteen the role-changes are seamlessly accomplished and overall the fast pace is sustained.
As the Duke, Jonathan Tynan-Moss’s ‘boyish’ charm and enthusiasm to put things right is sometimes at odds with the Duke’s desire to be controlling, a puppeteer and master of everyone’s fate. Yet he manages to engage our attention throughout, particularly his final breaking of the fourth wall, a cheeky aside that captures the hearts of the Napier crowd.
In the role of Isabella, Clementine Mills’ power and strength ias, on occasions lost; the Municipal Theatre is known for its dead spots and this sometimes hinders the clarity of her delivery. Having said that, Isabella’s outspokenness, her fierce passion as she denounces Angelo’s treachery and her brother’s failings are superbly conveyed, particularly in the second half of the performance.
Hugh Sexton’s marvellously awful portrayal of Angelo brings a disturbing element of sexual tension to the stage, and Max Loban’s Lucio is a cavalier performance: as the comic relief his double-entendres and ever-growing staff are hilarious.
All-in-all this is a delightful performance. Having seen many Shakespeare plays over the years, at the Globe London, the RSC Stratford-upon-Avon, this remains up there with the best and is one I shall remember for a long time.
“Halleluiah” to the Pop-up Globe for taking the risk. We loved having you here. Come back. Bring the theatre with you and stay for a while.
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A cosmopolitan romp with satirical bite
Review by John Smythe 01st Aug 2019
Having recently read Elizabeth Winkler’s argument for Emilia Bassano’s authorship of plays attributed to William Shakespeare, I cannot help but engage with Measure for Measure from that ‘what if’ perspective. The satirical skewering of male privilege, arrogance and hypocrisy has the universal female experience, now known as ‘Me Too’, written all over it. No wonder it’s being revived around the world.
Although the extremities of vice and virtue are personified in the female and male characters, all the women are open and honest with it, while most of the men are devious, dishonest or lacking in integrity. In the male-dominated socio-political state of 17th century Vienna, the women stand strong. Novice nun Isabella is as committed to chastity as brothel-owner Mistress Overdone is committed to sustaining the service she offers her clients.
While financial issues have delayed their marriage, Juliet has happily had consensual sex with her fiancé Claudio (Isabella’s bother) and is now pregnant. Marianna, ditched some time ago by her puritan fiancé Angelo, when her dowry was lost at sea, still holds the proverbial candle for him.
Angelo is a classic example of the Puritan who imposes his moral rectitude on others as well as himself in vain denial of the calls of nature. When Duke Vincentio, more interested in furthering his studies than being the head of state, delegates the restoration of the somewhat slackened rule of law to his deputy, Angelo asserts his authority by condemning Claudio to death as a fornicator. While Juliet is spared, being with child, her future as a solo mother is bleak.
An egotistical libertine called Lucio, who finds sexual innuendo in everything, has fathered a child with one of Mistress Overdone’s ‘girls’, but denies it to avoid marriage. It is Lucio who talks Isabella into pleading with Angelo for Claudio’s life to be spared. And the price Angelo sets for that is her virginity, to be taken by him. When she threatens to expose his venal hypocrisy, arrogant Angelo simply says:
Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoil’d name, th’ austereness of my life,
My vouch against you, and my place i’ th’ state,
Will so your accusation overweigh,
That you shall stifle in your own report,
And smell of calumny. I have begun,
And now I give my sensual race the rein.
Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite,
Lay by all nicety and prolixious blushes
That banish what they sue for. Redeem thy brother
By yielding up thy body to my will,
Or else he must not only die the death,
But thy unkindness shall his death draw out
To ling’ring sufferance. Answer me tomorrow,
Or by the affection that now guides me most,
I’ll prove a tyrant to him. As for you,
Say what you can: my false o’erweighs your true.
Left alone, Isabella is all too aware she has no standing:
To whom should I complain? Did I tell this,
Who would believe me?
Actually, Claudio does believe her and after overcoming his initial anger and natural urge to protect his sister, he rationalises that God would surely forgive her committing of such a sin if it is to save his life. Isabella is outraged and, Christian beliefs being what they are, concludes they will both fare better in the hereafter if she remains a virgin and he dies.
Fortunately the Duke has disguised himself as a Friar and hung about to observe how things fare under Angelo’s ultra-conservative rule, and he too believes Isabella. But instead of intervening, he offers Claudio spiritual counsel and, knowing how Angelo has wronged his fiancée, conspires with Isabella to set up a ‘bed-trick’ whereby Angelo will sleep in a pitch-dark room with Marianne and thereby be compelled to marry her. So, dubious mind-games verging on emotional abuse notwithstanding, justice prevails and, in classic comedy style, the ‘happy ending’ involves much pairing up – including the problematic pairing of the Duke and Isabella, proposed twice by him and unanswered both times by her.
Of course it’s wonderful to think William Shakespeare had the life experience and awareness to craft this tale so insightfully but it makes an awful lot of sense to me that Emilia Bassano (profiled in Wiki as Emilia Lanier) had a lot to do with it.
This Pop-Up Globe on Tour production of Measure for Measure, directed by Dr Miles Gregory, offers a fun-filled romp that honours its ‘dark heart’ with a highly satirical tone. Gregory has set it in 1642, on the eve of the English civil war. Given Shakespeare’s company staged plays that metaphorically referenced topical issues and situations, the suggestion here is Britain, if not the ‘western world’ is spoiling for a new revolution. Thus Barry de Lore’s word-warping Elbow is dressed as a contemporary English bobby.
The whole cast relishes the bawdy vivacity of this Vienna, splendidly manifested in Chantelle Gerrard’s costume designs, Brigid Costello’s movement and choreography, and Paul McLaney’s musical direction.
At the play’s centre, Clementine Mills embodies the complexities of Isabella’s experiences with clarity and strength. Hugh Sexton likewise humanises the deeply flawed and appalling Angelo to great theatrical effect. Adrian Hooke’s Claudio is winningly fallible and vulnerable while Lydia Raynes renders a delightfully uncomplicated Juliet. Summer Millett’s Marianne exudes strength of will while making her inexplicable desire to reunite with Angelo credible.
Serena Cotton’s Escalus is suitably authoritative (the re-gendered characters are also re-pronouned). As played by Jonathan Tynan-Moss, Duke Vincentio completes the more grounded and sincere characters until he goes undercover, whereupon his Friar becomes a Southern Baptist from the US of A – presumably to capture an aspect of today’s USA, but I’m not sure it works because he is not a blinkered bigot and the ‘acting’ tends to get in the way of what the Duke is out to achieve in this guise. Strangely both he and Friar Thomas (John Bayne standing in for the moon-booted Salesi Le’ota) are played as blind. Are we reaching back to ancient Greek drama here, with an all-seeing blind person?
Camping it up lusciously are Bryony Skillington as Mistress Overdone; Frith Horan as her re-gendered pimp, Pompey; Amber Blease as Froth, also regendered to become the other ‘unmarried mother’ … and Max Loban as Lucio. It’s probably not Loban’s fault that Lucio’s obsessive sexualising of everything, played several notches above ‘wink-wink-nudge-nudge’ soon becomes quite tiresome – that’s true of everyone we know who does that – but his lively physicality is entertaining in itself.
Asalemo Tofete, sporting a Quixotic Spanish helmet (as do others when doubling as guards) is the kindly but dutiful Provost, and the executioner, Abhorson (Bayne), is convincingly amoral: just doing his job.
The very real threat of death is common to all Shakespeare comedies. It’s the sexual exploitation that adds a deeper level of darkness to this plot. Those toxic masculinity moments could hit harder in this production but the point is made and the satire registers well.
As for that problematical proposal, the way it’s resolved draws laughter and applause from the Wellington audience and the ‘jig’ at the end brings it all to a highly satisfying conclusion. It’s a cosmopolitan romp with bite.
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Romps along with joyous vitality and emotional honesty
Review by Erin Harrington 13th Jul 2019
It’s a genuine treat to have the Pop-Up Globe visit Christchurch with their touring double bill. Their production Measure for Measure, directed with verve by Miles Gregory,is a physical, high energy, bawdy confection that’s anchored by powerful performances.
The play is an ideal programming choice in a time where the predatory behaviours of an embarrassingly large subset of men in power is brought kicking and screaming into the daylight. This production leans heavily into the play’s rude comedy, rather than its serious exploration of vice, morality and hypocrisy, and in doing so it offers a good night out instead of a serious rumination on the abuses of power.
A colourful, well-designed production, it recreates (insofar as is possible) the participatory experience of the Globe in the Isaac Theatre Royal: house lights are raised slightly and the performers address, encourage and berate the audience in a way that makes the large space feel intimate. They skilfully draw the notoriously introverted Christchurch audience out of its shell, inviting us into a world steeped in double-entendres and moral manoeuvrings.
After a bright and lively opening we meet Claudio (Adrian Hooke) and his bride-to-be Juliet (Lydia Raynes), who have fallen foul of Vienna’s strict vice laws; the dowry’s been held up and he’s knocked her up in the interim, but this is still in clear violation of a ban on pre-marital sex. This probably wouldn’t matter, but Vienna’s lenient Duke (Johnathan Tynan-Moss) has left the city in the hands of the judge Angelo (Hugh Sexton), and Angelo’s a cold-blooded puritanical stickler. He takes pleasure in the misfortune of others, quickly shuts down the city’s (many, many) houses of ill-repute – except for those beloved by city councillors, naturally – and jails many of its pimps and whores. We learn quickly, though, that the Duke’s set up a ruse and, instead of disappearing on a diplomatic mission, he’s disguised himself as a friar and is staging the Jacobean version of Undercover Boss.
At the behest of the clownish cavalier Lucio (Max Loban), Claudio’s sister Isabella (Clementine Mills), a young nun who is about to take her vows, passionately petitions Angelo for mercy. Angelo finds himself smitten and appallingly aroused, and the zealot soon threatens Isabella: give me your virginity for Claudio’s life, or your brother suffers further. This sets off a complex and comical series of events and shifting power dynamics, rendered with clarity by the cast, involving corruption, a ‘bed trick’, a ‘head trick’ (a gag with a severed head), various comings and goings of sex workers and prisoners and guards, and a surfeit of disguises and letters. It all resolves (of course) in justice (of a sort), couplings, marriages, and a song and dance.
It’s a treat to see this rarely-performed play given life; I admit that it’s long been one of my favourites and I didn’t realise how thirsty I was for well-performed Shakespeare. The production is presented with a joyous vitality and, at times, an emotional honesty that gilds the play’s dark core with light. The stunning costumes, along with the production’s music and movement, aptly fulfil the production’s promise of a collision between Shakespeare and Moulin Rouge.
My plus one aptly describes this production as a ‘problem play’ made a bit less problematic. It’s certainly one that chooses to highlight laughter instead of the play’s inherent ambivalence, especially in the way that it chooses to interpret an infamous moment of silence at the end involving Isabella and the Duke.
In a production full of highlights, I am particularly impressed with how Mills and Sexton play the tug of war between Isabella and Angelo. They do a sound job of balancing the complicated shifts of power and motivations in their often-combative sequences, and take seriously the play’s core conflict. Sexton’s rendition of the long monologue in which Angelo recognises his carnal attraction to Isabella is admirable in its power and restraint, and a rare instance where the play’s interest in the horrors of corruption is brought to the fore.
I also love Max Loban’s delightfully precocious and lewd portrayal of Lucio, and his interactions with the motley cast of pimps and provosts. This character is integral in bridging the gap between the play’s plot lines, and in drawing the audience into the action. If you like a running patter of dick jokes and Early Modern STD references as much as I do, you’ll have a grand time.
Gregory has judiciously edited Shakespeare’s script, which has resulted in a production that feels like it romps along, even at well over two and a half hours. Thankfully, much of the play’s long-form moralising has been slashed, and extended comic sequences have been concentrated and, in some cases, tweaked or rewritten to better suit the play’s contemporary audience. For the most part, the adaptation’s anachronisms are really successful. They do an excellent job of helping to communicate theme, tone and character. This is doubly important given that, for most people, Measure for Measure will be a totally unfamiliar text, and one of the production’s strengths is its narrative clarity.
That said, and considering the loose mid-17th century setting, I am a far less convinced by the way that the play’s blind Friars have been presented, absurdly, as Southern preachers. This creates marvellous opportunities for comic action and audience interaction – hallelujah! – and I can see how it makes this disguise plot, and some of the play’s looser narrative strands, more comprehensible. However, a farcical and well-blocked sequence in which two Friars seem to recognise one another from back home in Virginia tips the scales too far for me. (It generates a little scratch in the back of my head that whispers ‘what would the purist Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand think? Is someone going to get told off?’) This choice might serve the loose comedy of this production (and it does so very well, there’s no denying it), but I’m really not sure if it serves the intentions of the play.
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More than a tad reminiscent of Gilbert & Sullivan
Review by Gail Tresidder 04th Jul 2019
The set makes an immediate, topical and amusing impact, with a large banner “Farewell Duke, Safe Travels in Poland, Vienna will miss you”. An excellent combination of faux wood panelling, brick façade, two imposing chandeliers absolutely set the scene, with a mandolin and violin playing duo on the balcony above.
In a graceful gesture to the original pop-up Globe, a few privileged from the audience are up on the stage, right in the action. So far, so excellent, and prior to the performance the cast interacts amusingly with the audience – sadly far from full on this first night in Nelson – as smoke puffs on to the stage, the play proper just ahead.
The costumes are wonderful. Colourful and drear to match the characters with Asalemo Tofete, as Provost, outstanding in more ways than one, in his ersatz Swiss Guards outfit. It befits him well.
Also most enjoyable are the witty anachronisms throughout and the Kiwi-isms. Our audience loves them.
There are some clever asides from Jonathan Tynan-Moss as The Duke, though his delivery at times is so fast it is almost unintelligible, and the Southern Baptist drawl and interpretation is prolonged and becomes tedious. The point is made, in spades.
Clementine Mills is so swaddled in Isabella’s novice nun’s outfit that the good woman she is almost disappears. It isn’t until the final denouement of the play, her wimple and veil removed, that we can reach her, and it is too little too late. As written, Isabella is a strong character, pure of heart – and very determined. This Isabella is more shrill than strong and quite unlike our images of other strong women from Joan of Arc to today’s young, fighting for change all over the world.
In contrast, the bawdy women of the brothels and streets are wonderful characters. Bryony Skillington does a great job as Mistress Overdone. She is perfectly cast. Warm, funny and colourful, like the others, she is also deliciously lewd and big-hearted.
One can see why Measure for Measure is enjoying a fresh airing at many theatres around the world. Shakespeare created characters who are bigoted, power hungry, treating women as inferiors, pawns and sex objects. This reflected his times and sadly still resonates today in ours.
Having said that, frankly this play, billed as tragicomedy in my Shakespeare’s Works, is far from the best our greatest English playwright wrote. One gets the feeling that he dashed it off, insomuch as he could dash things off using a quill pen, in a flat period; perhaps the weather was foul, his theatres were having a quiet patch and he had nothing much better to do.
Whatever, this cast makes the very best of it with great singing and dancing, good asides, all in all more than a tad reminiscent of Gilbert & Sullivan.
The second Act after interval seems to go on interminably. A little judicious cutting would help. No doubt this very talented ensemble do all they can to make Measure for Measure relevant and funny wherever possible – but how much can be done to make average ho-hum extraordinary?
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An assured, intelligently directed and above all entertaining production of a most intriguing play
Review by Terry MacTavish 29th Jun 2019
It is a pity we don’t get the actual playhouse of the Pop-up Globe, but this production in the Regent, with fabulous set by Malcolm Dale and lavish costumes by Chantelle Gerard, is the next best thing and indeed has a validity of its own.
First produced in 1604 at the start of King James’ reign, Measure for Measure could well have played in a candle-lit Indoor Theatre which, instead of the thrust stage surrounded by raucous groundlings, provided benches for richer patrons, as well as galleries and even seats on the stage itself.
Director Miles Gregory has set the play even later, around 1642, when puritanism was on the rise in England and the country about to be torn apart by the civil war that ended with the Commonwealth destroying the playhouses it believed encouraged immorality. Certainly this play seethes with sexuality as we flip between the pimps and punks of the riotous bawdy houses and the repressed pillars of the community who get to dispense, and abuse, justice.
In later centuries the Victorians found it too rude to produce in the original, though the Pre-Raphaelite painters were attracted to its darker side and languid melancholy. No gentle melancholy for this modern take – Gregory’s Measure for Measure is played for comedy, a sparky spunky rendition, with amusing dumb show to explain confusing plotlines and plenty of joyful dance and music, rushing us headlong to what it is clear will be a happy ending.
Concerned that his city has descended into vice, the Duke of Vienna leaves the city to the governance of the puritanically moralistic Angelo, hoping his deputy will enforce unpopular neglected laws that punish fornication with death. However, he disguises himself as a friar and hangs around, to see how Angelo will cope.
After enjoying their bawdy talk and musical numbers, we see something of the consternation of the pimps and prostitutes as the brothels are shut down, but zoom in on the more questionable case of Claudio, a young nobleman who has gotten his fiancée pregnant. His sister Isabella, about to become a nun, is persuaded by his ‘fantastical’ friend, Lucio, to beg Angelo to spare Claudio’s life.
The upright Angelo, impervious to the lures of ladies of easy virtue, is gradually but irresistibly attracted to virtuous, eloquent Isabella, her chaste bosom heaving as she pleads for her brother. In the favours-for-sex deal as old as time, Angelo promises the appalled Isabella her brother’s life in exchange for her virginity. For a nun, remember, that is mortal sin. And sadly even today, her stunned words will resonate with many women, “To whom shall I complain? If I tell this, who will believe me?”
Overhearing Isabella tell an understandably ambivalent Claudio of Angelo’s offer, the disguised Duke proposes the classic bed-swop – Isabella should pretend to agree, but in her place will be Mariana, the former fiancée Angelo dumped when her dowry fell through. (Naturally this will work as all cats are grey in the dark.)
As Angelo reneges after the deed and orders Claudio’s execution anyway, the Duke has to do more scheming and this time comes up with the head-swop, easy enough in a pestilence-ridden prison full of condemned men. However as he sees fit to let Isabella believe it is her brother who has been decapitated, then himself switches back from Friar to Duke and pretends to disbelieve her accusations against Angelo, the denouement takes some time.
Measure for Measure can be played as very bleak, or at least with the humour very black, but this is most decidedly a romp. The tone is set by the cheerfully lewd punks who may jest about diseases but seem perfectly happy with their lot, like the merry pickpockets of Oliver. Even the prison, with its sweet Provost Asalemo Tofete, rather than a pit of despair is the setting for a lively song and dance number.
The glorious Jacobean costumes, skirts hitched up suggestively, swirl with rich reds and burgundies against the stunning set, the subdued black of the puritan clothes merely enhancing the riot of colour. As anticipated, the actors, supported by skilled musicians, are polished, physically able and supremely confident, successfully giving the impression of having the time of their lives. Consequently the audience responds with enthusiasm, and the Regent rocks with not altogether innocent merriment.
The huge theatre is no doubt more difficult for vocal projection than the actual Pop-up Globe, in which the patrons are much closer to the actors, and some in the audience admit later to having missed dialogue. Nevertheless the given space is handled with great aplomb, and right up to the final joyful jig, all fifteen actors work hard to involve us and provide what was promised, the true experience of Shakespeare’s own time.
Doubtless it helps that the bawdy house scenes are staged a la Moulin Rouge, and that Mistress Overdone is the gutsy Bryony Skillington, and Pompey the Pimp played delightfully by Frith Horan not as a man, but a lively independent woman, while the irrepressible Max Loban fizzes with mad energy as Claudio’s flamboyant friend Lucio, wielding his staff, possibly once too often, in obscene suggestion.
I am especially charmed by Barry de Lore, the only one in contemporary costume as the earnest policeman Elbow, whose enthusiastic malapropisms (unlike those of the similar but more successful Dogberry) are his undoing.
It can be hard to like the main characters, let alone identify with them, but Gregory’s engaging production makes them almost appealing. Hugh Sexton balances Angelo’s deplorable treachery and abuse of power with the extreme (and comical) embarrassment of a man suffering from unexpected and overwhelming sexual arousal.
By the expedient of adopting an American Deep South accent in his Friar disguise, the manipulative Duke, who usually comes across as an unpleasantly meddling type with dubious motives, is transformed by Jonathan Tynan-Moss into an adorably bouncy enthusiast who just wants to fix things up.
And Isabella, of the chilling “more than my brother is my chastity” line, in the hands of Clementine Mills is just a very young girl with the unbridled emotions and crusading zeal of youth. The dawning physical attraction between her and the Duke makes the ending much more bearable than is usual.
(Slight Spoiler Alert) I played Isabella once and the ending was a swine – this extraordinary offer from the Duke, with no hint as to how Isabella feels, and no line of dialogue to finish her story. Here it is quite charmingly handled by Isabella, after a prolonged silence, coming to her decision with that most Kiwi of idioms, “Oh, bugger it!”
This light-hearted interpretation of Measure for Measure suits my mood, but even those who might consider the issues of justice, corruption and the abuse of power warrant a more serious approach must surely rejoice that we are treated to this assured, intelligently directed and above all entertaining production of a most intriguing play.
I never cease to marvel at the relevance of Shakespeare’s themes, wrapped in such glorious language. Isabella’s words are as potent as Portia’s more famous “quality of mercy” speech, as she argues:
Not the king’s crown … nor the judge’s robe,
Become them with one half so good a grace
As mercy does.
And reflecting on the ape-like tricks of certain current world leaders I am close to cheering when Shakespeare has her declaim:
… but man, proud man,
Dress’d in a little brief authority,
… like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep; …
Indeed. But no weeping, nothing but cheering for this courageous venture. Thank you, Pop-up Globe, for the exuberant brilliance of this production. Please keep touring!
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Editor July 3rd, 2019
Here is the link to Terry MacTavish's chat with Jesse Mulligan about the PopUp Globe tour of MEASURE FOR MEASURE and HAMLET, on RNZ Afternoons.