E. Schaffert and G. Brooke’s adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II hits you like a neon dream. Between the 1980s inspired soundtrack and the slick movement sequences this play at its core tells the story of a king divided by his heart and his duty.
Shrouded in power dynamics, Barney Hartwill’s Edward II is a weakened King, doubted for his choice to return the man he loves from exile upon his ascension. He’s pulled between his noblemen led by Jack Linley’s cunning Mortimer, and his upstart lover Gaveston (Alex Levy), who thrives from the affection of someone by far his social superior. The result is a broken kingdom which leaves no-one painted favourably.
“There is duality as they flicker between love and hate”
Its not always clear who is using who, but it is for certain that these characters are not afraid to manipulate each other to get what they want. But there is duality as they flicker between love and hate. The love of a partner, a child, of duty, pushes the characters to their extremes. Linley’s tunnel-focused Mortimer drives the noblemen to the point of no return, taking the lovesick Queen Isabella (India Agravat) with him.
“The costumes were strong and cohesive”
The 1980s setting isn’t always prevalent, but the costumes are one of its clearer indicators. Kiara Hohn’s Young Spenser, decked in acid-wash jeans and large sunglasses, was a breath of fresh air in the height of the tension, but make it clear they are out for themselves as much as the rest. The costumes were strong and cohesive. It felt telling that Edward wore a plastic cloak reflective of his weak authority.
Joe Strickland’s atmospheric and minimalist set gave the play space to speak for itself, but left some aspects to be questioned. The scraps of 80s newspaper headlines did feel like a labouring of the point. They bared no direct relevance to the play, more as a reminder to the audience that this was its time period.
“Arthur McKechnie’s thumping 1980s soundtrack acted as a form of expression for the tensest scenes and as a means of release in others”
It was the soundscape where this was most effective however. Arthur McKechnie’s thumping 1980s soundtrack acted as a form of expression for the tensest scenes and as a means of release in others. Interjections by the sound of static only increased as the play reached its climax and certainly stopped me getting too comfortable. This play is anything but. It’s ruthless and back-stabbing, and shows that not even a King is safe in his authority.
“The idea for a modern setting was a sound one as it’s relatability gave the audience an entry point into the sometimes challenging 1600s script”
It is rooted in yearning – for power, for freedom and for respect. Schaffert and Brooke’s choice to set their adaptation in the 1980s forces these parallels of a recent time onto the audience and reminds us of the need for acceptance. The idea for a modern setting was a sound one as it’s relatability gave the audience an entry point into the sometimes challenging 1600s script.
“The basic human emotion of a desire to love freely and be accepted as you are shines through”
Don’t let this put you off however, the basic human emotion of a desire to love freely and be accepted as you are shines through to make this a compelling and relevant play for today.
Featured image courtesy of The Nottingham New Theatre Facebook page.
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