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Edward II,

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
Five stars

Pride was beaming on the streets of Glasgow this weekend, and, whether by accident or design, for Bard in the Botanics to open its no-holds-barred revival of Christopher Marlowe’s brutal history play to coincide with the celebrations was a masterstroke. Here, after all, is a play several centuries ahead of its time in its depictions of a gay affair in high places, the openness of which is stamped out by a cowardly homophobic establishment.

Gordon Barr reimagines his stripped-down four-actor adaptation in the tight-lipped 1950s, when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK. This doesn’t stop Charlie Clee’s Gaveston swaggering on in denim and leather like Joe Orton’s swingingly amoral toy-boy from Orton’s breakout play, Entertaining Mr Sloane.

Reunited with Laurie Scott’s King Edward after Gaveston’s return from exile, the pair flaunt their physical affections with flamboyant and self-absorbed abandon. This is what gets to Andy Clark’s uptight Lord Mortimer, a man in uniform who wears his medals where his heart should be. But it is Edward’s embattled French queen Isabella who feels the cruel brunt of Edward and Gaveston’s public displays of affection the most.

In the first half at least, this renders Esme Bayley’s brilliantly brittle Isabella as a well-turned-out wifelet keeping up appearances, but who looks like she might shatter into a million pieces any second.

Edward and Gaveston themselves resemble a matinee idol double act. As they promenade the full length of the Kibble Palace hand in hand to a soundtrack of 78RPM slow-dance smoothers tailor-made for gentleman’s clubs of the most intimately private mind, it’s clear they believe themselves to be invincible.

There’s a sense of urgency to Barr’s production that brings out a set of fearless performances from all four actors. As Mortimer, Clark is the epitome of that soul-less breed of bunged-up little Englanders terrified of anything they don’t understand.

As Bayley’s Isabella slowly but surely morphs into a venus in furs, she is surrounded by ghosts that will never leave her, and is left holding a lot more than the baby.

The Herald, July 16th 2018 

Ends


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