The Young Vic Theatre is never one to shy away from a challenge and in their autumn season they have taken Shakespeare’s lesser known play, Measure for Measure, and completely revamped it. The Young Vic has joined forces with Joe Hill-Gibbin and together they expose the unpleasant business of sexual politics, social injustice and the challenge of inflexible virtue.
Measure for Measure has the reputation of being one of Shakespeare’s problem plays. It is generally considered a comedy but blends both tragic and comic elements together. Under Joe Hill-Gibbins direction it is laugh-out-loud funny at times, but he manages to do this without undermining the dark and sinister side of the tale.
The story looks at justice, morality and mercy and Joe Hill-Gibbins puts the spotlight on the corruptive nature of power and how even the most virtuous of people can succumb to temptation and abuse their position once under its influence.
The action takes place in modern Vienna, where vice and licentiousness are rife. The Duke of Vienna, Vincentio, disgusted by the immorality which he has allowed to proliferate during his reign, vows to clean up the city. He hands this task over to his deputy, Angelo, a man of scripture and firm abstinence, while he himself pretends to go on a diplomatic mission but in fact disguises himself as a monk to watch what unfolds in his absence.
Angelo goes at his new task with great zeal and in the process he becomes detached from any sense of humanity and is seduced by his new found power and influence.
Paul Ready plays the pious Angelo and Romola Garai the virtuous Isabella; both deliver a fine performance, although one could wish of more for chemistry between them. That said they hold the play together; propelling it forward and lighting up the stark stage with their performances.
This may not be your classic rendition of a Shakespearean play but then one wouldn’t really expect that from the Young Vic Theatre and with Joe Hill-Gibbins directing be prepared for the unusual. Whatever this modern Measure for Measure is it’s certainly not boring.
Measure for Measure is now on at the Young Vic Theatre in London and runs until 14th November 2015. For more information and tickets go to: http://www.youngvic.org/