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Measure For Measure

William Shakespeare
Demi Paradise
Lancaster Castle

Nicola Jayne Ingram and Adrian Palmer in Measure for Measure Credit: George Coupe
Adam Grayson and Lucy Faint in Measure for Measure Credit: George Coupe
Tarek Slater and Lucy Faint in Measure For Measure Credit: George Coupe

Of all the ways to mark this year's 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, a rock ‘n’ roll party, in Lancaster Castle, might not be among the more obvious.

Then again, the city’s Demi Paradise theatre company—despite the name—seldom does anything by half measures. Staging Measure for Measure in a 1950s setting ensures even the Bard has never had it so good.

The play gets "All Shook Up", as well as half a dozen other pop classics, in a production that honours the subversive nature of the story, but never lets up on having a good time.

The only downside has to be that this will be the last Demi Paradise Shakespeare production to haunt the historic rooms, court chamber, corridors and cells of the ancient monument. Actor-turned-producer Stephen Tomlin is retiring the company that has delivered 10 such performances over 17 years. He may not quite qualify for a coat of arms in the Shire Hall, but it is an illustrious achievement that has provided some vivid theatrical memories down the years.

Here he revisits one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem’ plays but there are no difficulties apparent in director Joyce Branagh’s smooth stroll through the promenade production. Measure For Measure is a moral maze, where ‘good’ people cope badly, while the bawdy seem to do better.

Branagh, sister of Sir Kenneth, uses the Castle’s various settings in new ways. The Barristers Library becomes the focal point of the torrid encounter between Angelo (Laurence Aldridge) and Isabella (Lucy Faint) while the centuries-old chill of the basement dungeons adds its own sensory experience to the scenes of crime and punishment. Besides the ideal setting for a rendition of "Jailhouse Rock"... and where Nicola Jayne Ingram has as much fun as is legally decent with the roles of a Constable or an Executioner.

Lucy Faint’s highly-expressive performance is crowned by her final curtain singing of "Memories Are Made Of This". It also makes for a poignant footnote to these productions.

Reviewer: David Upton