Back to the Globe again for their next Shakespeare production of the “Justice and Mercy” season, Measure for Measure. Dominic Dromgoole’s final production in the Globe itself is an almost jolly version of this problem play, not my favourite production by any means but enjoyable for what it is.
I find this play difficult because none of the characters really appeal to me. Even for the period, I find Isabella’s valuation of her chastity above her brother’s life deeply objectionable, though his disregard of his sister’s wellbeing in his eagerness to save his own skin is hardly any better. Angelo’s abuse of his new-found power is deeply distasteful, while the “good” Duke, prepared to stand and watch all this unfold, annoys me greatly.
Still, the events of the piece are compelling, nowhere more so than after Isabella threatens to unmask Angelo’s lechery and he points out that his position being what it is, no one would believe her over him. Mariah Gale gives a strong performance as Isabella, delivering her lines with sincerity and depth, while Kurt Egyiawan matches her as Angelo, a statesman who seems almost surprised by his new-found attraction. I loved the Duke’s (Dominic Rowan) proposal scene, which Isabella receives by holding her head in her hands – an expression of surprise which seems entirely natural and which actually made me warm to the character.
The atmosphere of the piece is one of jolly licentiousness, with bawds and pimps jostling with the groundlings for yard space. Even the disturbing branding of prostitutes, with the inference that this has been instigated by Angelo, doesn’t dampen the atmosphere entirely. A superb summer production and a fitting farewell for Dromgoole.