REVIEW: Measure for Measure at Cambridge Arts Theatre - Still chance to catch this entertaining production

Measure for Measure at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Measure for Measure at Cambridge Arts Theatre - Credit: Archant

Like Shakespeare but are fed-up with the usual suspects - Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and so on? - Then the Cambridge Arts Theatre is the place for you this week.

Measure for Measure at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Measure for Measure at Cambridge Arts Theatre - Credit: Archant

That is where you will watch and be enthralled by The Marlowe Society’s production of Measure for Measure - sometimes referred to as Shakespeare’s forgotten play and considered to be ‘difficult’ by others.

Having studied it for A-level - 35 years ago - this was the first time I have ever seen it staged and what a find.

As anyone who has ever been ‘forced’ to study anything for an exam is likely to agree the fun is often lost.

But watching this dark comedy - and it is dark - performed definitely put the laughs back in the play for me.


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The cast, which was woman heavy - more females than the bard originally intended for this tale of morality, temptation and corruption - raised many a laugh out loud moment with their performances.

Leading the laughter charge was Aoife Kennan whose portrayal of the normally male Pompey stole the show with her rambunctious and infectious performance.

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Tom Beaven (Lucio) and Raphael Wakefield (Elbow) were not far behind.

For those not familiar ,with this particular play it is set in a vice filled Vienna where the Duke (Mark Milligan) decides enough is enough and puts the aptly named Angelo (Marco Young) in charge of cleaning up the city.

Exit the Duke, who in typical Shakespeare-style decides to disguise himself and return to watch what happens next.

Angelo - a morally upright man - declares all brothels should be ‘plucked’ down while invoking a forgotten law about licentious behaviour, which sees Claudio (Zak Ghazi-Torbati) arrested and facing the death penalty for getting his girlfriend pregnant.

Lucio and his friends shocked by the turn of events seeks out Claudio’s sister Isabella (Alexandra Wetherell), a novice nun, to plead for her brother’s life.

The pretty and virtuous nun proves too much of a temptation for Angelo who makes her an offer she can refuse - her virginity for her brother’s life.

She rejects the deal, but the Duke - prowling Vienna in the guise of a monk - gets involved and sets in motion a plot to unveil Angelo’s less angelic side, and save Claudio, using the desperate Marianna (Sasha Brooks) - Angelo’s former fiancee.

Director Tom Littler does an excellent job keeping the action flowing with simple set changes and by retaining characters on stage even when they are not involved in the action. He draws some very fine performances from the whole cast.

Mark Milligan’s slightly effeminate Duke particularly shines giving the character a fervour you can almost touch at times while Alexandra Wetherell’s Isabella is convincingly angst-ridden over her inability to save her brother.

Measure for Measure runs at Cambridge Arts Theatre until tomorrow Saturday. See cambridgeartstheatre.com for tickets.

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