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Tamburlaine The Great at Tristan Bates Theatre – Review

Tamburaline The Great“Give me a map; then let me see how much is left for me to conquer all the world”

These lines, spoken towards the end of his quest for new lands to conquer, concisely sum up Tamburlaine’s arrogant strive for success and predisposition to ruthless war. Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Tamburlaine the Great’ at Tristan Bates Theatre, however, ditches the military dimension in favour of a turn on more intimate familiar dynamics. This production opens with a catchy all-male choreography, to change, only a few minutes later, with the appearance of the female counterparts as well, resulting in a sort of human carnival hinting at the several types of people Tamburlaine will meet, destroy, and eventually tame.

As soon as the play opens, it’s clear the performance won’t be affected by the very small space given: against black surroundings, the cast move so naturally that the size is easily forgotten. It’s also partly due to the engaging music, perfectly in tune with the story displayed from beginning to end. The tribal tune accompanying the entrance of the great “Tambo” sets the grandeur of the character and effectively captures the attention of the audience.

Rachel Dingle’s costume choices are also clever and fascinating in delivering a wild and fierce Tamburlaine through disheveled attire first, and then a successful and powerful king with a proper smart-looking suit at the peak of his success.

Prince Plockey’s performance is perfect: his physique du rôle and his permanent sneer perfectly convey the brutality and powerful fascination with evil which will guide his actions and transform him from shepherd into king. This production is generally loyal to the original text, especially in the character of Zenocrate: Alex Reynolds delivers an ambiguous woman, attracted and charmed by Tamburlaine, yet humanly moved by the Turks’ emperor Bajazeth and Empress Zabina’s destiny.

The dramatic climax is beautifully reached shortly after their entrance, as the two women participate in an equally excruciating fight parallel to the physical one taking place behind stage between Tamburlaine and Bajazeth. However, Lazarus Theatre Company spoils an otherwise success by delivering both parts of the original play in roughly two hours and fifteen minutes. While the first part is linear and runs for ninety minutes, the second part is inevitably rushed and reduced to only forty minutes. Many cuts and changes are made throughout, making it less clear and suddenly culminating in Tamburlaine’s illness, where no room is left to Tamburlaine’s history to develop. Zenocrate’s death doesn’t receive adequate attention and the complete suppression of the children story-line is baffling.

Generally, the second part fails where the first succeeds: in the tasteful, loyal, and vibrant reproduction of the original script and the perfect pace. The audience’s morally condemnable fascination and empathy with Tamburlaine’s human and godless ambition and thirst for power which make of Marlowe’s play the forerunner of countless English tragedies diminishes more and more in the second half because they’re not given enough time to grow.

Overall, this is an enjoyable production, although the changes made to the second part don’t either improve the play or favour an in-depth analysis of basic issues, such as free will, Christianity, or ethics. It’s also commendable in its effort to pursue the original meaning of Tamburlaine’s history through a spot-on casting, a brilliant sound, and a wise use of the theatrical space.

3 Star Review

Review by Gabriella Infante

Dictator, lover, husband and murderer, Tamburlaine the Great, hits the stage in an all new gripping, physical and brutal production.

Controversial writer, Christopher Marlowe’s fierce and ferocious play follows Tamburlaine and his thirst for power. The crown is within his reach and nothing, not even God, can stand in his way.

Tamburlaine the Great marks the Lazarus return to the Tristan Bates after our sell out productions of Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida and Coriolanus in 2014 and our award-winning production of The Tragedy of Mariam in 2013.

Tamburlaine marks Lazarus’ sixth year at The Camden Fringe which is celebrating its tenth year.

Lazarus Theatre Company is an award winning classic theatre company, re-imagining and revitalising classic text for a contemporary audience.

Tamburlaine the Great
BY Christopher Marlowe
Adapted and Directed by Ricky Dukes
Dates 25th August – 12th September, Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm
The Tristan Bates Theatre, Covent Garden, WC2H 9NP
Tickets £15.00, £11.00 (Concessions)
www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk or call 020 7240 6283

Saturday 29th August 2015


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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