Measure for Measure (2002): The Steam Industry, Riverside Studios

PrMeasure for Measure (

Location: Riverside Studios
Live Performance

This was produced under the title Measure for Measure Malaya.

"Ceiling fans hang above government offices decorated with white wooden shutters and trailing greenery; a Union Jack droops in the oppressive heat. Sweltering in a cream linen suit in this perfectly realised Graham-Greene-goes-to-Raffles setting is Angelo, recently put in charge of affairs due to the mysterious departure of his boss, the Duke....The issues of law and justice are now debated in a crumbling British colony in 1930s Malaya, a place where, it is evident from the outset, moral absolutes melt in the sun."  ~ Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard, 11 November 2002, in Theatre Record XXII, Issue 23

"Lush vines hang from the rafters and a sultry heat pervades British-ruled Malaya in Phil Willmott's lean, captivating distillation of Shakespeare's classic....Kate Bannister and Karl Swinyard's set design is an impressive arena of bamboo, shutters, screens and the hanging vines, while Jon Fiber's sound design is admirable accompaniment."  ~ Paul B. Cohen, The Stage, 14 November 2002

"As the title clearly implies, Phil Wilmott [sic] has shifted the action of Shakespeare's great fable about justice and mercy from Vienna to 1930s Malaya. This is a world of colonial lust, fierce rainstorms and chirping cicadas. But far from offering fresh perspectives, the relocation of the text reduces the play to the level of an overheated Somerset Maugham melodrama. Wilmott's [sic] purpose is presumably to point up the sexual hypocrisy that accompanied the British colonial mandate. Angelo thus becomes a white-suited district officer who condemns the Eurasian Claudio for fornication while lusting after his novitiate sister, Isabella. The idea that political and sexual imperialism go hand in hand is underlined by the fact that Angelo's rejected mistress, Mariana, is herself Eurasian. And to cap it all Shakespeare's Duke, here translated into the Malayan High Commissioner, concocts the whole elaborate plot to save Claudio and expose Angelo in order to get his paws on Isabella."  ~ Michael Billington, Guardian, 8 November 2002

"Richard Dillane's Angelo is a strict, buttoned up District Officer who - while pouring over regulations - is clearly feeling the heat. He ends up imperiously abusing the devout Asian nun, Lourdes Faberes' Isabella, who comes pleading for judicial mercy. The race relations - with nasty presumptions lurking behind paternalism - add to this play's sexual tensions. Unfortunately though, the acting is very uneven. You never quite believe Dillane's Angelo is obsessed with Christian ethics, and Faberes' meek Isabella needs more intellectual vigour to fire him up when they wrestle over theological doctrines."  ~ Kate Bassett, "From bard to a great deal worse", Independent on Sunday, 10 November 2002

"Lourdes Faberes, a Filipina actress, seems overwhelmed by the demands of the Mariana part [sic]."  ~ Rhoda Koenig, Independent, 11 November 2002, in Theatre Record XXII, Issue 23

"Good things have often emerged from Phil Willmott's slice-and-dice updates of Shakespeare. But not, sadly, in Measure for Measure Malaya, which shifts the play's moral extremism and corruption from Vienna to a 1930s colonial outpost of hanging creepers, revolving fans, rainstorms and dance-band tunes....Having set up transgressed racial divides, it's curious how they don't fuel the play's sexual tensions. It's mostly reined-in emotion, with even Lourdes Faberes's Isabella seeming insipid while pleading for her brother's life in the face of the salacious demands of Richard Dillane's lust-stricken Angelo. The play's heady ethical debate also becomes subordinate to Willmott's anti-colonial theme in a cut text that loses much of the play's poetry and moral ambiguity."  ~ Ian Johns, Times, 13 November 2002

"The result is that the play is both diminished and twisted, limited to an examination of the justice and hypocrisy of colonialism; nor are there any exceptional performances to illuminate the text. The cast consists of just nine actors which leaves us to imagine the riotous elements of the cesspit city for ourselves....The greatest pleasure comes from the colonial setting created by Kate Bannister and Karl Swinyard and from the stormy weather that underscores the action: the thunder that rolls at significant moments of the play; and the occasional flash of lightning. But that's hardly enough to justify a trip to the theatre."  ~ Jane Edwardes, Time Out, November 13-20, 2002


Pe People involved in this production