Review: Measure for Measure, The Provincial, Cardiff.

November 25, 2010

Here is my review of Sherman Cymru’s take on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, which I wrote for The Public Reviews.

Their theatre on Senghennydd road is closed for redevelopment until next autumn, but the Sherman Cymru creative team continue to champion new writing and edgy directing elsewhere in Cardiff. Their Measure for Measure, a sadly under-performed Shakespeare play, is set in an indeterminate time and place, but is hosted by the otherworldly space that is The Provincial – an old converted bank complete with classic pillars and dark vaults. Performing in the round and on various levels and platforms, the cast of seven double up on parts in a bohemian and seductive version of this tale of morality, desire and corruption. The cold-hearted, pious Angelo is put in charge of a city filled with brothels and lusty punters, and quickly makes an example of a young man, Claudio, who has impregnated his lover before marriage. His sister, a nun, is implicated when she goes to plead with Angelo on her brother’s behalf. Angelo’s repressed lust is stirred by Isabella’s purity and beauty, and he bargains with her to sleep with him in return for her brother’s freedom.

The cast, slickly masterminded by the Sherman’s associate director Amy Hodge, makes this tangled web of disguise, seduction, fantasy and punishment utterly compelling. The impressive space of The Provincial turns your head, quite literally, as characters address each other from different sides and levels as the action is constantly moved around. Martini glasses and lingerie are draped around tables near the audience, and the fascinating costume designs involve both layers of hedonism (lace, chains, nail polish, flesh) and devoutness (collars, robes, black and white.) This works especially well with the actors who play two characters; their costumes combine a bawdy, raunchy side and a conservative severity. Ifan Meredith is particularly striking as the complex Angelo, who is not simply a tyrant but a man terrified of his natural urges. His Isabella (Kezia Burrows) is a strong female lead, though her turmoil is rather too passionately acted early on, leaving little room to develop the character further. The use of a solo saxophonist and bluesy vocals by a wandering street girl (Anita Reynolds) gives the play a haunting edge, as their notes linger in the smoky air.

Eiry Thomas shines as bawdy, laddish Lucio, adding a Welsh twist to the character that makes him seem more knowing and at ease than others. She delivers some of the best lines in the piece, getting the laughs in more than one scene. For one of Shakespeare’s more intense plays, the confrontation scenes and agonizing speeches did not drag, and the suspense was kept high by the excellent pace of the acting. The company have taken the solid moral plot and added dashes of intoxicating smoke, jazz and S&M to make it modern and relevant. The Sherman’s Measure for Measure doesn’t sacrifice the story to its modern twists, but makes it a genuinely enjoyable and thought-provoking piece of theatre for a contemporary audience.

Runs until 5th December


One Response to “Review: Measure for Measure, The Provincial, Cardiff.”

  1. Amelia Says:

    This is great! Wish I’d met you in the vaults. Could you drop me an email sometime please? I’d love to talk Buzz!! Later x

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