Edward II Review
The kind of audience you might expect to go and see an Elizabethan historical play only made up a quarter of the audience at Edward II. The rest were groups of young people, all there having been drawn in by Joseph Fiennes's brooding face on posters across Sheffield and the 3 words- Sex, Power and Love. When you walk in to the theatre you see in the centre of the stage the coffin of the late King, Edward I, and his golden crown later to be worn by Edward II. The play begins and ends with a funeral procession.
The play uses lights, haze and sound to provide the atmosphere of the play but this is undoubtedly enhanced by the quality of the acting from the 18-member cast. The 6 actors which stand out in my mind after seeing this wonderful production are:
Joseph Fiennes who brings humour as well as sadness to the play with an outstanding performance. The other person on this level has to be James D'arcy who plays Gaveston. Before you go it is hard to imagine Jo McInnes as a Queen after seeing her running around on a football pitch in the cold and rain in "Playing the Field", but she does make an excellent Isabella. Lloyd Owen who plays Mortimer Junior the queen's lover has a very powerful voice and presence, bringing Marlowe's character to life in a strong effective way. Gideon Turner plays Edmond, Earl of Kent the King's brother and Ben Porter, Spencer who is given to the King by Gaveston, are good solid characters.
Perhaps because of the controversial subject matter, this particular play has only actually been performed every 15 years or so over the last hundred years, and Sheffield is very lucky to have such a fantastic cast and director working on it here. The director, Michael Grandage won awards last year for his production of
As you like it by William Shakespeare, and deserves to win more for bringing Edward II to life in the 21st century. The play is now completely sold out. Rumours that it might be on for another week have been quashed as some of the cast have other commitments. The play deals with politics, love and homosexuality. Some parts of the play stick in your mind like the mask performed to the king by 6 nearly-naked painted golden men, and the arrival of Gaveston on the quayside greeted by the king and his nobles, as well of course the tragic scene where Edward is subjected to torture by drain water and finally meets his death by a red hot poker.
Edward II will be the most talked about production of the year. On the 27th March, members of the public will be able to talk to the cast after the performance, as they were last night before the play when I went to "Page to Stage" where Michael Grandage and the cast showed us how they put on the production and the different effects they used and methods e.g. the noise of paint tins for sword effects in battle scenes, arrangements of lights etc. Two members of our small audience got the opportunity to direct a scene from the play and the actors came and spoke to us and answered questions. For 1.50 this was amazing! All the actors were laid-back and normal and not at all big headed. If anything some of them were shy. From the way they spoke to each other you could see they had built up friendships and were comfortable around each other.
Edward II runs until the 31st of March at the Crucible Theatre Sheffield bur, if you haven't already got a ticket, you'll have to join the end of a long queue of desperate people waiting to find out if there are any returns.
Copyright h.nelson March 23rd 2001
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Edward II review