Measure for Measure
1913 Vienna is the setting: while the upper classes waltz their way through the ball season, a multinational, multicultural city seethes with innovation and revolution and the politicians glance nervously at the Balkans, a powder keg waiting to explode. In this turbulent atmosphere, the Duke of Vienna leaves the city, placing power in the hands of his deputy Angelo: a moral crusader of the most unbending sort, who soon learns he is perhaps not as in control of the city – or of himself – as he thinks.
Photographs by John Saunders.
Duke Vincentio: Clive Lyons
Isabella: Anna Rogers
Lord Angelo: Nick Jones
Lucio: Jacob Fleming
Escalus: Harold Mozley
Provost: Joe Gregory
Pompey: Anna Rubbi
Claudio: George Stagnell
Elbow: Tom Straszewski
Mariana: Lydia Onyett
Friar Thomas: Jacco Thijssen
Froth: Will Spratt
Mistress Overdone: Katy Devine
Sister Francisca: Lisa Valentine
First Gentleman: Maciej Miedziewski
Second “Gentleman”: Claire Morley
Abhorson: Alexander Gordon
Barnardine: Ian Crossley
Angelo’s Servant: Sarah Jane Strong
Juliet: Emma Dubruel
Justice: John Hasselgreen
Director: Matt Simpson
Assistant Director: James Osman
Stage Manager: Maurice Crichton
Deputy Stage Manager: Izzy Carrick
Producer: Sam Valentine
Graphic Design: Lada Hunt
Set Design: Catherine Dawn
Costume Design: Whitney Straszewski
Lighting: Helen Pitcher
Publicity: Kate Smithson
In The York Press, Charles Hutchinson wrote: ‘Measure For Measure is one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays”, which in this case is a roundabout way of saying it is not one of his best.
‘York Shakespeare Project is working its steady way through all 37 plays, and actor Matt Simpson has taken on the challenge of measuring up to Measure For Measure in his first directorial posting since The Crucible in his Lancaster University student days 12 years ago.
‘He brings a clear vision and resolute comedic purpose to his updated production, setting Shakespeare’s dark comedy-drama of misunderstandings and hidden identities in the Viennese whirlwind of political corruption, sex, scandal, justice, nuns and friars in 1913.
‘“It’s an odd play, where it’s not a comedy, but it’s not a tragedy either because it doesn’t end up with a pile of dead bodies,” summarises the director. “It starts as a heavy morality tale but then it’s tonally all over the place and changes completely.”
‘It is indeed an odd play that is no less odd for this production having an uneven rhythm and tone to go with similarly uneven performances from a cast of 23, as Simpson eschews doubling up roles in favour of spreading the workload in community theatre.
‘What Simpson’s rollercoaster does create is a sense of turbulence both in white heat of revolution in Vienna and in the damage inflicted on lives by hypocrisy, double standards and political expedience.
‘The most even, eloquent performance is given by Nick Jones’s duplicitous Angelo, the control-freak deputy to the Duke Of Vienna.
‘Angelo’s unbending moral crusade is utterly compromised by his lack of self-control in the presence of Anna Rogers’s Isabella, a novice nun caught on the horns of a dilemma after her brother Claudio (George Stagnell) is sentenced to death for making Juliet (Emma Dubruel) pregnant. Rogers re-affirms herself as a principal player of substance to go with her auburn radiance.
‘Clive Lyons is the odd one out, his Duke (later disguised as a friar) having disconcerting speech patterns and a tendency to drag out his lines. Anna Rubbi’s Pompey goes the other way, physically humorous but needing to slow down her delivery.
‘Cameos produce the best comic performances, in particular Jacob Fleming’s cocksure Lucio, Tom Straszewski’s suitably named Elbow and Alexander Gordon’s apple-chomping Abhorson, while Lydia Onyett’s contrastingly serious Mariana is the second half’s outstanding turn.
Catherine Dawn’s blue set with an edge like a chewed postcard adds another odd note but the oboe, concertina and cello music of Fleur Hughes, Alison Morgan and Jenny Green is a delight.’
Review by Marguerite Jennings of NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association):
‘Welcome to a new Society to NODA NE. York Shakespeare Project was founded in 2001 with the object to perform the “whole cycle of Shakespearean drama “. Measure for Measure is the YSP`s 21st major production and the 24th play they have tackled. It is not perhaps one of the most well known of his plays but is an intriguing study of hypocrisy and the abuse of power, laced with cynicism about attempts to force morality through legislation.
‘The set was very simple with the same back ground throughout and the use of tables and chairs to suggest the changes of scenes with music from a very good trio of Oboe/voice ( Fleur Hughes), Concertina/Guitar ( Alison Morgan) and Cello (Jenny Green) who added to the atmosphere of the play with their choice of music.
‘With a cast of 21, most of whom were in their 20`s, the production kept to a good pace with good projection and attack. Concentration was maintained throughout with very good characterisation from all the cast. A wonderful occasion to see so many young people enthralled and fully engaged in this performance of a Shakespeare play. I look forward to your next production in the Spring.’