Review: Measure for Measure at the RSC

Measure for Measure at the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Aug 29 2019, then touring until Apr 2020.

Vienna, early 1900s, as the 20th century arrives on a river of Freudian fears and sexual shenanigans, is the setting for the RSC’s new take on Measure for Measure.

Hannah Azuonye, Melody Brown in foreground. Tom Dawze in background.
Photo by Helen Maybanks (c) RSC

The play is bare and serious compared to the other summer productions of As You Like It and The Taming of the Shrew. One of William Shakespeare’s “problem plays”, there are many comedy moments in Measure for Measure, but they’re sprinkled among an uncomfortable plot involving snake-like Angelo and novice nun Isabella.

Newly empowered Angelo wants to clean up the city, re-introducing strict laws around out-of-wedlock liaisons and the glut of brothels. He condemns Claudio to die for getting his fiancée pregnant. Isabella, Claudio’s sister, pleads for his life, which Angelo will spare if she sleeps with him.

Sexual favours for a powerful man from a vulnerable woman. In this era of #metoo, this story continues to resonate.

Lucy Phelps as Isabella. Photo by Helen Maybanks (c) RSC
Claire Price and Sandy Grierson (in background). Photo by Helen Maybanks (c) RSC

Lucy Phelps as Isabella and Claire Price as Escalus once again rule the boards. It has been an absolute pleasure to see these two terrific actors during this exciting summer season.  

You won’t come away with a warm, fuzzy feeling; the ending is abrupt and unpleasant. You will come away moved by powerful performances and a five-star production.

As You Like It at the RSC Stratford-upon-Avon runs until August 31 2019. Book tickets here.

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Information correct at date of publication