Measure for Measure feels relevant and contemporary (4 stars)

Measure for Measure

credit: Tommy Ga-ken Wan

Gordon Barr's reimagining of the Bard brings a fine morality tale

Pulsing like a murder ballad, Bard in the Botanics' artistic director Gordon Barr's adaptation of Measure for Measure has a strong Gothic sensibility. The Kibble Palace is transformed into an intimate setting for a tale of hypocrisy and corruption in Catholic Vienna. In this interpretation, Claudio, sentenced to death for fornication, becomes Claudia, played with great passion and delicacy by Esme Bayley. A pardon is suggested by the Duke's Deputy Angelo (Adam Donaldson) if Isabella, Claudia's sister and a young novice nun, will succumb to his desires. What follows is a sharp and brutal exposure of ugly entrenched misogyny.

Although the play slightly loses momentum after a thrilling first half, the dynamic cast make up for any shortcomings. Nicole Cooper is heart-rending as a poised Isabella, bringing immense dignity to a role which could so easily have fallen into the dramatic trap of hand-wringing victimhood.She is more than matched by Kirk Bage's superb Duke Vincentio, whose swaggering monologues cut to the heart of the patriarchal society. Donaldson, while a fine Angelo throughout, only fails to convince when self-flagellating as his conscience catches up with him. Nonetheless, there is a lot of heart, and many inventive scenes, in Barr's lusty production which feels relevant and contemporary.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens, until 29 Jul, 8pm.

These Headstrong Women: Measure for Measure

Shakespeare’s explosive and prescient drama makes its first appearance at Bard in the Botanics for nearly 15 years in this new version for just four actors.

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