The Rose Theatre in Bankside is a great place to go for productions of Elizabethan and Jacobean classics, as well as lesser-known plays from the period. The Massacre at Paris is Christopher Marlowe’s final play and this production is the first in London for four hundred years.
Directed by James Wallace, the play is a difficult one, focusing on French politics, the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and the the history of the French Wars of Religion. There is plenty of bloodshed and numerous deaths: the play does not shy away from the brutality of the period. Beginning with the wedding of King Charles IX’s sister to the King of Navarre, the plot focuses on the Duke of Guise and his search for power.
An ensemble cast of 14 portray around 40 characters between them yet no confusion results from this, as far as the audience is concerned. I loved the use of confetti, with celebratory white confetti for the wedding giving way to red confetti indicating bloodshed. By the end of the play, the floor was covered in red confetti, giving you some idea of the scale of death and destruction evident in the play. I also loved the use of the space: as well as the main performance area, the platform in front of the submerged remains of the Rose, actors used the far wall in several scenes, emphasising secrecy and intrigue.
Overall, this is a high quality production that turns a difficult play into a tense and absorbing thriller. Definitely worth seeing.