Watching a rehearsal of Boundless Theatre’s Measure for Measure last week I was so excited by the talent and passion I saw – and the production more than lived up to my expectations. The director Matt Bulmer has created an absorbing, sumptuous and filthy city, providing thought-provoking and entertaining production with a terrific cast.
This neglected hole of a city becomes a character itself in the form of the excellent writhing, lace-clad, cackling ensemble of prostitutes. This miserable township is mourned by its Duke (Sam Jenkins-Shaw) who disguises himself as a friar to find the root of the city’s problems. In these dual roles Sam Jenkins-Shaw offers us stage-holding soliloquies, touching concern for his depraved city and the confident audience-winking comedy of a disguised Shakespearian lead.
In the Duke’s supposed absence, the austere Angelo (Ed Richards) takes control over the decaying city. Ed Richards’ performance is a magnificent transformation as temptation reduces him from a composed leader to a confused and enraged love-struck fool. While prostitution, day-time drinking and lechery are rife, questions of justice and morality are raised when the unfortunate Claudio (Jeremy McCabe) gets caught out getting his fiancé Julietta (Georgie Grange-Bennett) pregnant and is sentenced to death. Throughout Jeremy McCabe’s pained and passionate performance we relate entirely to the underdog who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In this man’s world, however, there are women who certainly hold their own. In her commanding but touching portrayal of Claudio’s feisty nun-to-be sister Rhian Marston Jones fights against Angelo for her brother’s life, cleverly manipulating her way through patriarchal rules to reach her goal. Another woman on the make is the madam Pompey, who is saucily played by Jenny Summerfield. Worth noting now is her hilarious flustering of poor stuffy Escalus (Richard Patient and his wonderful gangly limbs).
Other great performances come from the cheeky and very watchable cad Lucio (Paul Lawless), the unendingly sincere Mariana (Amelia Kirk) and the sensitive but duty-bound jailor Provost (Lee Alexander).
The ingeniously varied original score by Alex Heffernan adds much to the piece, from the haunting soloist in the opening of Act 2 to the lugubrious guitar and harmonica playing during the prison scenes like a dead-end jailhouse in a Western movie.
Crafty use of lighting, blinds, partitions and select props and furniture create an incredibly professional look to the set, considering the challenges which this new company have faced. The creative details of the production (including the aged scrolls for programmes) show us that talent really can overcome lack of funding.
Measure for Measure’s final performance takes place tonight at the Nuffield Theatre at 7:30. Go for a (cheap!) evening of quality acting, quick humour and great entertainment with a gripping story.