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Measure for Measure - 'Bard at the Bridewell' Season

Published by: Luke Tudball on 20th Feb 2007 | View all blogs by Luke Tudball

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Baseless Fabric Theatre Company

 
Presents

 

Bard at the Bridewell

 
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Measure for Measure

 

Just a stone's throw from the City and the River Thames, and minutes from the West End, the Bridewell Theatre seems ideally situated, and yet it's fair to say that over the past few years it has had more than it's fairshare of ups and downs. The unique venue, formerly a Victorian swimming pool and laundry, has long been synonymous with new talent and new writing, and has staged productions that would, perhaps, not have been produced in some of the more mainstream London theatres. Landmark productions have begun here, but problems with budget have left their mark, and were it not for the tireless work of Theatre Managers Lucy Hillard and Mike Palmer, amongst others, this little-known gem may have been lost forever. Thankfully, it's still here, and I, for one, am very glad of that fact. Though finding the theatre on your first visit can besomething of a challenge, it's one which you should relish as, by the time you get there, the anticipation of what you might see is almost tangible. The entrance is found in a twisty little street, Bride Lane, somewhat reminiscent of a location for Jack the Ripper, but full of character for that, and well worth the search.
 
Reducing this, one of Shakespeare's 'problem plays', down to forty-five minutes is no mean feat. The Compicite production at The National Theatre ran to almost one hundred and thirty-five and even then ran at a heady pace. The moral dilemma of Isabella's choice between the death of her brother and the loss of her virginity seems a little heavy for this 'comedy', however, the cast has done very well at it and this production is both slick and exciting, although to a lover of the Bard the exclusion of Mistress Overdone (times, e.g. the lunch break, being what they are and all that) and some of the other well-loved characters may be a minus point. This was a minor annoyance to me and did not really detract, and I found myself fully engaged and drawing contemporary references (As one reviewer commented about a previous production, "It is fortunate for the theater, not to mention newspapers, that hypocrisy, corruption and sexual entanglements in high places have never gone out of fashion"), slightly surprised at the end that it had finished so quickly. I mean, most of

the time it takes me longer than that to get to the theatre.

 

This is a great little production. Little only in length and setting, and provides a magical escape from the rat-race of daily life. Directed by Joanna Turner, this production does not rely on spectacle, the stage bare and black-draped all around, and no soundtrack or lighting to speak of. In this case though, the text is paramount and the cast, though somewhat young in a few cases, rattled through it like natives, creating some great moments in theperformances. Peter Rae as Lucio was in fine form, his dry sense of humour and perfect comic timing providing a welcome contrast to Nicki Walsh's surprisingly honest and simple Isabella, tugged in all directions. Richard Mark as a dark and brooding Angelo found power in his words, although seemed at times to blend into the background, being as he was, all in black throughout. Robert Maskell also found a great balance of humour and seriousness in a well-judged portrayal of the Duke which drew us directly into the world of the play and the intrigue of Vienna's upper classes.

 

Lunchtime theatre is an interesting concept, and one which, I hope, will continue onwards and, as it were, upwards (geographically if nothing else, nearer to and into the West End). In a world that's increasingly dominated by television, games consoles, computers, and digital media, it is fantastic that there is the opportunity to see some of Shakespeare's greatest works during your lunch hour - and at £5 a ticket it's less than your average deli sandwich and coffee combo. Why not improve your health and wellbeing by ditching the caffeine and stimulating the grey matter? The 'Bard at the Bridewell' Season runs until early May and is well worth the effort to seek it out.

 

Much ado about nothing you ask?

 

I think not

 
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For more information on the Bridewell Theatre, its fundraising efforts, and all its forthcoming productions, please call 0207-353-3331 or log on to http://www.bridewelltheatre.org/

 

To contact Baseless Fabric Theatre Company, you can emailbaselessfabrictheatre@yahoo.co.uk

 

Nearest stations: Blackfriars and City Thameslink

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