Marlowe's play about King Edward II is a powerful and provoking drama, less concerned with weak statecraft than divisive sexual politics and the way a particular king allows homoerotic attachment to blind him to his natural responsibilities as monarch of the realm.
Edward II has the relationship between Edward and his beloved Piers Gaveston at its epicentre and it's interesting to see how this dynamic is tackled in the all-male cast of what's billed as a season of regime change. On the whole it's a pretty seamless transition with the exception of Chu Omambala's Queen Isabella whose manifest masculinity causes not so much ambivalence as latent comedy.
Liam Brennan and Gerald Kyd are terrific as the two men emmeshed in a passionate affair, one of whom just happens to be the sovereign, his royal status seen as something that allows him to gratify his desires rather than a birthright which imposes a certain code of conduct. There's no subtle intimation here- Brennan and Kyd vividly convey all the amorous intensity of this relationship, something which drew surprise from the audience.
Oblivious to all but his favourite, Edward sows the seeds of national disaster, something which the barons, led by the scheming Mortimer are quick to sense and quicker to exploit to their own advantage. Fatally flawed by his attachment to Gaveston, Edward's downfall is nonetheless pitiable and his end appalling, something from which the production doesn't flinch in depicting in all its brutality. It's a long haul- well over three hours- but it's entirely to the credit of this strong company- under the direction of Timothy Walker- that interest rarely flags for a moment.
Notices from the popular press....
IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, "It’s still a solid staging, even if it doesn’t fully capture the dark passions and loyalties that overthrow almost everyone by the end." NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Vivid and raw tale of royal love." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, " The all-round lack of fire is dispiriting."
External links to full reviews from newspapers