It’s dark. The snow has melted. There are no more balls. Your flatmates are getting on your nerves. Revision is looming and you’ve resigned yourself to a fortnight of drudgery. Worse – your only planned form of cultural exercise consists of evenings full of “Netflix and Chill”. But wait – what is this light at the end of the tunnel? Is that – no, surely not – is that a Shakespeare play going up in the Barron Theatre this Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday? Wait – it’s not Romeo & Juliet/Macbeth/A Midsummer Night’s Dream – but Measure for Measure instead?
Sure to be the best form of procrastination this revision season – Measure for Measure may not have been on your reading list this semester – but its definitely part of the syllabus for a little module known as life. Ok – maybe that’s a tad overselling it, but let’s look at the facts. Directed by Benji Bailey – the man behind St Andrews productions of Julius Ceasar, Othello, and As You Like It. While all of these productions were critically well received – As You Like It in particular was my personal favourite show of last year, Bailey superbly bringing the Shakespearean comedy to life.
Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare’s problem plays – neither purely comedic, nor purely tragic. I was lucky enough to snag Bailey away from rehearsals to have a chat with him, alongside the show’s producer Gareth Owens and actor Jared Liebmiller (who previously starred in Equus and The Normal Heart) – to learn more about the show. Set in Vienna – with a plot revolving around a Duke who temporarily puts control of the cities government into the hands of “low level bureaucrat Angelo”– the show provides “a kaleidoscopic look at a society, and the way that various sections of it reflect each other and impact each other.”
Chatting to the team, their love of the play is easy to see. As the show is one of Shakespeare’s lesser performed plays (in St Andrews at least), they keep fairly schtum on the plot of the show itself – using the obscurity of the text to their advantage. Indeed, I was particularly impressed with the way in which the team’s textual focus – all agreed that exploring the text has always been at the heart of their rehearsal process. This is partly due to the budgetary constraints inherent in student theatre – if you can’t make a world literally, you need to focus on conjuring it up figuratively. Importantly, the shows relevance today has only increased, with the narrative thematically reflecting the way in which governments have become more opaque in their means of operation.
So there you have it – politics, renaissance drama, intrigue! Shakespeare is good for the soul (according to Web MD), so if you fancy an antidote to the revision blues, make sure to head down to Measure for Measure this week for the final show of the semester. This team doesn’t do anything by halves.
Photos provided by Jamie Jones