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Review of Edward II at St Bartholomew The Great London

Edward Fisher as King Edward II
Edward Fisher as King Edward II

The Little Spaniel Theatre Company has changed its name, and is now Scena Mundi. They bring us the second part of Sad Stories of the Death of Kings with Marlowe’s “Edward II”. Cecilia Dorland’s ever-evolving classical theatre company, Scena Mundi, is emerging into a brave new dawn where her passion for and dedication to verse embraces other cultural genres. While Marlowe’s “Edward II” charges blindly towards a desperately lawless world of civil war, death and deposition it is Marlowe’s own reputation that provides the inspiration for the production treatment.

A ‘theatre’ visit like no other I have had. Scena Mundi uses St Bartholomew the Great’s Church that, mostly, works surprisingly well as a venue. The stunningly beautiful setting for this play didn’t however distract from the performances. The set is visible on entry and it is minimalistic with an altar and a throne being the obvious pieces. It was a remarkable use of a church nave as a stage and had a theatre-in-the-round like feel with the audience being on two sides.

We were welcomed with “There are blankets if you’re worried about getting cold” but I decided to brave it. Unfortunately the audience was small with fewer than 30, which didn’t help with my only concern. That being when the actors weren’t facing you some of their voices had a tendency to get lost in the vast space. That is my only ‘complaint’ and I use the term rather loosely.

The whole cast were fantastic with several taking on more than one part but the stellar performance for me was by Pip Brignall. Brignall did an excellent job as King Edward’s lover and plaything Lord Gaveston, taking the limelight whenever he was on stage. This captivating and energetic performance continued when playing his second character although for me it was the performance of Gaveston that really excelled. All of the multi-part performers made each performance completely different so it was clear they weren’t the same character.

Edward Fisher as King Edward II, and Ava Amande as Isabella of France, Queen to King Edward, both gave amazing performances. Fisher perfected the slightly manic nature of the King, jumping effortlessly between the emotions, as the mind of Edward crumbled before our eyes. Amande looked stunning in her gown and stilettos as she flowed about the ‘stage’ capturing and delivering the scorned revengeful nature of Isabella superbly whilst conveying the power Isabella possesses with complete ease.

I really enjoyed the mix of 1980s rock with gothic attire with the business suit over chain mail look giving an extra twist to the reworked Edward II. The struggle Edward has with his love for Gaveston whilst losing the respect and support of his Lords is conveyed brilliantly.

Edward’s mixture of triumph and disaster is eventually ended with Marlowe’s infamous poker scene brutally taking the King’s life. Isabella and her lover Mortimer’s actions are orchestrated by Isabella who shows she has complete confidence in her ability to play the power game to perfection. The manipulation of people using titles and land to get one’s way was prevalent throughout, mainly with the King, but Isabella gave it a good go as well!

I would recommend you see this reworked dark tragedy.

4 stars

Review by Lee Cogger

Cast
Ava Amande – Isabella of France, Queen to King Edward
Pip Brignall – Lord Piers Gaveston
Anna Buckland – Edmund, Earl of Kent, Brother to the King
Edward Fisher – King Edward the Second
David J. Keogh – Bishop of Winchester also Lord Arundell
Patrick Oldham – Earl of Warwick also An Abbot
Graham Pountney – Duke of Lancaster also Lord Berkley
Martin Prest – Lord Roger Mortimer
Josh Pugh – Prince Edward also Lord Leicester also A Poor Man
Damien Regan – Lord Spencer also Bishop of Coventry
Nadia Sangari – A Mower also Messenger and Soldier

Creative Team
Cecilia Dorland – Director
Penny Rischmiller – Company Stage Manager, Design & Costumes
Nathalie Gunzle – Technical Stage Management & Lighting Design
Darren Royston – Movement & Choreography
Jean-Philippe – Martinez Original Music
Chris Wells – Programme
Eluned Hawkins – Text Editor & Dramaturg

Marlowe’s Edward II in repertory at Saint Bartholomew The Great with Shakespeare’s Richard II
At 19:30 in May: 26, 28, 30; in June: 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 16, 18, 20, 22, 25, 27, 29, 30; in July: 1, 2
At 14:30 in May: 30; in June: 6
http://www.scenamundi.com/

Friday 29th May 2015

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