by Katie Dowling
I’ve generally only had bad experiences with Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in the past; recalling the torment it caused me during my English A-Levels, so I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Act One’s most recent production of the play.
Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies, although there’s much more to the story than that – sexual violence, corruption, right and wrong, to name but a few. The intimate setting of the play, directed by Josey O’Neal, ensured that the audience felt the full impact of all aspects of this gripping tale of lust and corruption in Vienna.
James Davies played a very convincing Angelo, masterfully portraying both the icy-blooded purveyor of justice and the tormented and angst-ridden soul that lies beneath. Lottie Davies’ Isabella was also very convincing, capturing both the innocent piety and the silent strength of the character. Charlie Withers suited the role of the Duke, bringing a powerful presence to the character. I was wondering berforehand how the production would handle some of the more distressing scenes, but the challenging issues were dealt with well through the effective use of the set and the maturity of the actors themselves.
Providing light relief between the heavier scenes were Chris Paisey as Lucio and Jon Chapman as Pompey, who played their roles well and got a few laughs from the audience. Also deserving of a mention were the brave girls who were onstage as the audience were entering; scantily clad and strutting right up to the front row, creating a sense of the seedy corruption that plagued the city before the play had even began. The overall staging was simple, but very effective, using a few moving boards to change scenes smoothly and subtly. I am happy to say that after years of bearing a grudge against Measure for Measure, my opinion of the play has been changed for the better thanks to this production. I look forward to Act One’s next offering of Disco Inferno.