Measure for Measure (1981): Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
PrMeasure for Measure (1981)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Alfred Burke (Duke); Clare Higgins (Isabella); Christopher Neame (Angelo).
This production ran from 9 April - 16 May 1981.
"At the start of the play the Duke, wilfully ignoring matters of state, is found deep in mystical thought. A white-robed guru-like figure, he squats on the floor and ponders reflectively upon the profound mysteries of life. After handing over to the ascetic zealot Angelo, he emerges as a shaven-headed (Buddhist?) monk - an oriental brother rather than a hooded Christian friar. What of the society he is so anxious to leave and hover over as an omnipotent onlooker? Well, initially it all looks rather like pre-World War I Vienna, a decadent city where Mistress Overdone runs an elegant house of ill-repute which is frequented by lechers in top hats. After that I'm not so sure because the mood and atmosphere change swiftly, if rather uncertainly. We could be anywhere, but that is perhaps no great fault because this so-called problem play has an ageless appeal. A play for our times maybe: after all, Lucio (good performance by Zia Mohyeddin) is condemned in the end to marry a punk." ~ Keith Nurse, "Measure for Measure", Daily Telegraph, 11 April 1981
"What first meets the eye is the sight of the Duke meditating in the lotus position under the silent supervision of a Bhuddist [sic] monk (alias Friar Peter). The company then revert to Austro-Hungarian uniform and legal gowns to get the first bit of plot out of the way, before the top-hatted gentlemen adjourn to Mistress Overdone's brothel. A surprising place, this, with tastefully shaded lamps and a couple of classy whores in satin tea gowns, where one waits to see an opium pipe being passed round. This exclusive nightspot then turns into the open street for the arrival of the Provost with the arrest of Claudio, and when all the guests have departed the madam brusquely dispels the illusion by yanking a cord and bringing on the overhead lights. The whole thing is accompanied by Asian pipes and finger bells until the first appearance of Isabella poised at a prie-dieu with a Gloria coming over the convent intercom....The one good performance comes from Zia Mohyeddin who upgrades Lucio from the usual sneering dung-beetle into the image of a cheekily elegant gigolo, thus making some sense of putting the Shakespearian stews under genteel new management. Also, in notorious lines like 'Expresseth his own tilth and husbandry', Mr Mohyeddin outclasses the rest of the company in verse speaking." ~ Irving Wardle, "Measure for Measure", The Times, 11 April 1981