writer & director
EDWARD II by Christopher Marlowe
Paul Vitty’s Edward II is set in the 1920s. We sit down amidst dancing and merriment; the cast are vibrant, smiling and interacting with each other; the intimate space means no air is spared between actors and audience. The members on stage take this in their stride, laughing and dancing the Charleston. I am mesmerised by the red-lipped smile of Asha Lane, the highlight of her masked face, perfectly in sync with the period.
Inevitably this festivity is fractured by the public relationship of the king, Edward II, and his male lover, Gaveston. Edward II (played by Harry Winterbottom) harasses the space and people around him, petulance prevailing at all times. He will rule the kingdom his own way, Gaveston in tow. Queen Isabella, played by Emma Gonella, is exposed and humiliated by her husband’s behaviour. Gonella’s soliloquies are touching and honest, her beauty and vulnerability luminous under the lights.
The cast of 17 do extremely well to balance the space of the small theatre, although I question whether some actors could have multi-roled as some characters have very little participation. However, I also marvelled at the diversity of the performers – varying ages, accents and performance backgrounds collect to form this nucleus of power, loyalty and heart.
The relationship between Queen Isabella and Mortimer (played by Turan Duncan) palpitates under the text: their connection is electric. From their first glances at the court, when their idea sparks to revenge the king, to the realisation that they have changed their lives forever having fled to rebel, the stakes rocket in front of their lustful eyes. The two actors stay present and true to their objectives throughout the piece and I didn’t observe the same detail from the other relationships.
Ramzi Dehani holds our attention throughout as the vibrant and mischievous Gaveston. Other characters that I wanted to see more of are Maltravers (played by Josh Jewkes) and Lightborne (played by Sinead Davies): both are seamless in their delivery and also have presence whilst not saying a word. Sindri Swan, although not always confident with the text, delivers stillness and simplicity in his warning to the king, and this is a welcome respite in between the tsunami of emotionally charged performances.
Director Paul Vitty has assembled the actors skilfully with some beautiful physical moments, two of these being the dance between Isabella and Mortimer, and, in contrast, the high-octane entrance of stamping and clapping as the characters prepare to avenge the king. I adored the musical underscoring of some scenes; the soft and unassuming jazz undertone offsets the tension wonderfully.
At three hours long, Edward II is a commitment. The actors are brave and unapologetic in their delivery, but at times this is a little like white noise and the quieter moments often capture me more. This exciting and often untold piece of history has a very clear voice in the production – I’m just not sure, as a piece in its entirety, its intensity is comfortable to receive.
A Younger Theatre Review by Carla Turner
Edward II is a pacy, racy, roller coaster of a ride, which establishes its theme in Gaveston's first delighted words - of male love and loyalty taken to such heights that it causes civil war, and the eventual downfall of a king. It's a moody, antagonistic work - a play looking for trouble - a libertine fuck you to mainstream, respectable, puritan England. Venture Wolf put on an earnest and thoughtfully wrought production that allowed the darker ambiguities of the play to surface. Imaginatively directed by Paul Vitty, this was a fast paced, creative rendering which was hugely entertaining.
Henry Winterbottom played the demanding role of the King, as petulant, spoilt and inflexible. It was a fine rendering of an unappealing character, which showed scope and promise. Ramzi Dehani played the King's lover and ruin, Gaveston, with a sly coolness - except where it came to his encounters with the King, when Dehani displayed a warmth and commitment that glowed. Emma Gonella played a pitch perfect Queen Isabella, with grace, beauty and wit. All queens should be like that. Turan Duncan was terrific as the heroic usurper, quickly corrupted by power.
Of the other performances, James Chadurn played a marvellously entertaining, Churchillian Warwick - a commendably restrained performance, in that the Stentorian lines could easily have crossed into parody or irony. Will Barrett was convincing as the young schoolboy prince, who quickly grows up to be an avenging successor; and Pippa Caddick was a joy to behold, playing the complex Baldock with charisma and subtlety. There were 17 people involved in the cast, however, and all played their parts well.
Bravo to Venture Wolf for treating Marlowe's moody masterpiece with the seriousness it deserves. There are laughs aplenty to be had in the punnery and ironies of other Early Modern plays. Not Edward II, however. Marlowe meant this one - and so did this marvellous troupe of actors. Hats off to you all.
(co-written with AW King)
AW King and Paul Vitty have written an entertaining and poignant theatre piece, enhanced with live music, which digs under the skin of a rock star’s ego and internal drive, as two has-beens attempt to record the comeback album which will remake their careers.
An entertaining and poignant theatre piece, enhanced with live music, which digs under the skin of a rock star’s ego and internal drive
Music fans will revel in the scene where album titles are bantered between the pair; don’t miss the face-off of one upmanship, where Vitty is ridiculed for allegedly only being capable of playing three chords. The show features a plethora of jokes for music aficionados. A comical scene includes repartee which bemoans the struggle to find a decent drummer. This is used as an excuse for failing to create a hit single, which entertains the audience. The protagonists reminisce about rock and roll milestones such as being bought your first guitar, your first underage pint in a pub, and the impact of seeing your first cover band, underpinning the show with poignancy. Comedy lines such as being a ‘goth father’ and ‘post ironic lyrics on the cusp of satire’ accompany rock and roll name drops of Bowie, Eno and Iggy. A particularly entertaining anecdote entailing the theft of Keith Richard’s ashtray sets up the narrative journey towards recording a new album.
Referenes to The Fall, Nine Inch Nails, Smash Hits and Guns N Roses place the piece within a musical timeline. Dialogue considers whether being an obscure ‘no-one’ in the rock and roll world can play to your advantage, as the two argue about who had the most fans, in their heyday. Much audience laughter is created during a fun section where the album artwork is planned.
Vitty’s character loses control in a powerful scene where he ridicules the vocalist, picking up lyrics and dismissing them, in an offhandly menacing manner. King’s vulnerability is displayed in his reaction. Vitty plays a strong and convincing father, displaying an emotional vulberability which drives the narrative of the sub-plot. Intimacy and vulnerability are conveyed in a moving scene about his son.
Don’t miss Vinyl Encore, where you can decide for yourself who may be responsible for the menacing knocking on the door, and whether there really are two women, locked in the bathroom. The show is definitely replete with tales of excess, stupidity and dark secrets lurking beneath the surface.
Broadway Baby , by Annabel Pribelszki