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Edward II

By Christopher Marlowe

Royal Exchange Theatre, 12 September 2011

Edward II

Photo by Jonathan Keenan

An excellent production of one of Marlowe’s less well known plays.

The decision to foreground the ‘pure’ aspect of the play (to use the Elizabethan term) yet to set it in the 1950s (when gay relationships were still somewhat clandestine) is an interesting one, but fits in with the overriding theme.  That theme can be expressed as the constriction of freedom and desire.   Edward is a king constricted by duty and obligation, then later made mad by the loss of his lover and office, the frustration of his desires.  To Marlowe – and to his contemporaries too, no doubt – a king was not an ordinary man and could not live like one.  It was unbearable for such a one to be subject to his peers.

Chris New in the title role was splendid, especially in the latter half of the play when things heated up.  As well, Jolyon Coy as his nemesis Mortimer and Samuel Collings as his Ganymede, a certain Gaveston, caught the eye.

So we have yet another heady mix of infernal murders, cruel betrayals and injurious hubris from the pen of young Mr. Marlowe.  As always, the value he places on freedom and ambition make it all worthwhile.

Edward II is at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 8 October, further details are here.