It’s difficult to articulate just how incredible this production is, as a reviewer, you see many works, but not often, indeed rarely does a work leave such an indelible memory in the way that Edward II does. It’s the story of a king who never wanted to rule, who casts aside all advice and desertions, falling in love with his bit on the side. From here the narrative follows the dramatic down fall and untimely death of the king, his lover, and the monarchist ideal that must prevail above all else.
If you are a fan of theatre that is perhaps a little left of centre, then the Malthouse’s take on Marlowe’s classic Edward II, is most certainly for you. It’s a blistering adaptation that some how dances around some of the beliefs and ideologies that dog our society in the present day.
The moment you enter The Merlyn theatre, you’re transported to the insides of a cavernous museum, the backdrop, a white wall that stretches up into infinity. In front of this, are artifacts from Edward II reign that lay strewn across a myriad of tables that scatter the interior, as the performance reaches it climax, more of these objects are revealed, the resulting effect is chaotic and frightening.
The future king, played by the young Nicholas Ross, in opening scenes bursts onto stage, and details the first selection of these curated items, with the use of projection these items are helped bought to life, a device employed to great effect and used throughout the performance.
Audience are then introduced to our lead characters; Ned played by Johnny Carr and the enigmatic Piers played by Paul Ashcroft. In opening scenes the action placed against the backdrop of electronic music and emotive lighting is in contrast to this sumptuous vision, perhaps lacking in excitement or even chemistry. Thought it could be argued that this is not only a deliberate but also an intelligent choice by director Mathew Lutton, as it helps drive home a message surrounding the normality of love regardless of sexuality or gender. As the performance continues this lack of energy abates, soon audience members are drawn towards this unconventional pairing. In the role of Sib, Belinda McClory, holds court, her on stage manner borders between the charismatic and the frightful, similarly, playing the role of Mortimer, Marco Chaippi oozes charisma, it’s his presence that really unifies this cast, and helps propel the narrative.
Sound designer Kelly Ryall has created an accompaniment that is affecting, sounds that border on the recognizable seconds later fold into something far more abstract. Every element presented here works together unanimously to create something that can only be described as a world-class theatrical experience. Edward II is grand in scale both visually and thematically, rarely do we get the chance to witness a unique and distinctive vision, so whole-heartedly realized in such awe inspiring and gob-smacking manner. It’s the kind of work that illicit conversation post performance in response to its striking visual metaphor, it’s well wrought imagery, impressive castings, and how refreshing a response to the here and now, it offers up
Edward II plays at the Malthouse Theatre until the 21st of August, for more info or to book your tickets click here .