Edward II: High camp and romantic melodrama aplenty
- Lorna Irvine
- 17 July 2018
Gordon Barr's lusty production of the lesser seen Christopher Marlowe play is a furious, occasionally brutal look at the struggle for power - no matter what the cost
Laurie Scott and Charlie Clee play King Edward and consort/lover Galveston respectively, in swaggering mode, defying Edward's wife Isabella (Esme Bayley). Barr's direction is cautious, but having started off full tilt, it takes the second half for the play to relax into a more nuanced and assured pace.
With this production arriving during the heart of the Pride festival celebrations, Barr takes as his aesthetic template Derek Jarman's queer film classic, but rather than a thematic interrogation, he instead emphasises the fraught love triangle between Edward, Gaveston and Isabella, only referencing the deeper conflicts between the monarch's power and the aristocracy. It plays out more as a romantic melodrama, than a tragedy of epic proportions. There are a few moments of high camp, slyly undercut by a soundtrack which alludes to forbidden and illicit love affairs.
Bayley is superb as Isabella, the conflicted Queen who adores her Edward but must bear the pain of his open philandering. Above all, it's Andy Clark's portrayal of the seemingly inscrutable Lord Mortimer which dazzles – he handles the role with equal parts pathos, wit and absolute red mist brutality.
Yet, for all of its vintage tailoring, gramophones and wide-eyed torch songs, it's a play which is somewhat hard to warm to – perhaps because it is so rooted in misanthropy and one-upmanship.