Edward II – National Theatre – Review1150
The National Theatre production of Edward II has divided critics like no other play in recent times.
The ever astute Financial Times was full of praise, awarding it 4 out of 5 stars, whilst the Daily Telegraph described it as a ‘load of indigestible old tosh’ and took the opportunity to attack the National Theatre in a way it usually reserves for the BBC. Prestat hopes the powers-that-be at the National take pleasure in having riled such critics who still mourn the passing of Henry Irving.
This production of Christopher Marlowe’s 1593 play on the king’s tragic infatuation with Piers Gaveston is invigorating, bold and directorially refreshing. Gaveston’s commoner roots, which made him an outsider and a threat to the court’s nobility, are in this production represented by him being American.
Costumes are a mix of modern and period. The set, whilst not bare, is certainly stark and triggered a memory of Lars von Trier’s film Dogville. Whereas that was a film shot on a bare stage, here is a stage on which hand-held cameras project close-up images onto giant screens. This intensifies the harrowing anguish, torture and murder of Edward, literally magnifying it for the audience. The video-streaming also challenges and creates opportunities for the actors who are performing simultaneously on stage and screen.
This use of mixed media has infuriated conservative critics as has a perceived ‘indifference’ to language. The production may indeed forgo some of the beauty of the verse but a great deal of immediacy and intelligibility is gained. There are truly excellent performances from John Heffernan as Edward and Kyle Soller as Gaveston, who are supported by a universally strong cast.
Prestat, famed for its fabulous chocolates, awards the production of Edward II a much deserved box of Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles, a box of Ginger Hunks and a pallet load of Fruity Babes thrown in for good measure.