Sunday, January 20, 2008

Edward The Second

photo: Brian Dilg

While Marlowe's four-century-old tragedy has always featured the doomed gay love affair between the King and his low-born "favourite" Gaveston, this highly visceral production (from Red Bull, using an adaptation by Garland Wright) hyperfocuses on it with relentless intensity, as did Derek Jarman's film version a couple of decades ago. It's now, more than anything else, a story of devastation wrought by homophobia. While this mutes some of the play's themes (we're likely to think that Edward is an ineffectual king not because of his consuming passion for another person but because he's the victim of anti-gay persecution) the in-your-face, queer-revisionist result is nonetheless vivid and exciting theatre: it jolts us into seeing the story in a new way. The production, under Jesse Berger's intelligent direction, derives some of its power from its volatile blend of the elegant with the sensational (the sex and violence play out overtly) and its stylish, always purposefully anachronistic visual design. The rest is derived from the cast, commendably up to the challenge of delivering this freshly-contextualized story with sharp clarity. Although Gaveston's political ambitiousness is absent from this version, Kenajuan Bentley is able to hint at some stirrings below the character's surface. And in the production's most electrifying performance, Matthew Rauch plays an entitled, hurricane-eye deliberateness at the center of Mortimer's animal aggressiveness.

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