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Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 6. Tuesday, June 4, 1963

'Measure for Measure' Only Middling

'Measure for Measure' Only Middling

Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure" is rarely performed, so I was eager to see Michael Hattaway's production for the English Department. I was disappointed.

I Saw it twice, but was never genuinely moved for more than a few moments by the play which, despite all its bawdy humour, is essentially tragic.

The producer obviously had an intelligent and clear conception of the play, but his and the actors' inexperience resulted in many technical faults which undermined the finer scenes.

However, I must commend the cast on the high standard of diction and their grasp of the meaning and value of their lines.

Particularly good in this respect was Jack Richards as the Duke of Vienna who, disgusted by the corruption that is flourishing, hands the administration of the city to Angelo, his stern, dedicated deputy. Richards, mostly disguised as a friar so he can watch his deputy's rule, acted with sureness and confidence. His authority as the Duke and his humbleness as the friar showed well the difference between the two characters.

Ralph McAllister played Angelo the deputy whose long-repressed sensuality is awakened by the lovely Isabella, sister of Claudio whom Angelo has condemned to death for getting a woman with child.

His scene with Isabella, where he offers to reprieve Claudio if she will surrender her chastity to him, was the highlight of the play. A splendidly striking figure in red and black, McAllister's words had a fine whiplash edge; the change in feeling as his desire got the upper hand and his voice assumed a pleading note, was admirably done.

Helen Sutch's Isabella was finely and feelingly spoken. She failed to capture entirely the spiritual agony and conflicting emotions of Isabella, but showed evidence of impressive talent.

Isabella's scene with Claudio in prison, where she tells him of Angelo's ultimatum, is intensely moving, but bad placing of actors pretty well ruined it. The scene was not helped by Julian Watson's Claudio who, in spite of a fine voice, failed to invest his words with more than token meaning.

Lucio the rather ridiculous young fop who trips in and out of the action with inane, but occasionally shrewd, comments was well played by Maarten van Dijk. He had the affected speech and gestures the character demanded, and was the only person onstage who looked at home in tights.

A mention, too, for the ancient lord Escalus, played by Robin Maconie. His was one of the finest characterisations of an older person by a young actor I have seen.

David Taylor's set was well suited to the play, although greater attention to sight lines would have been appreciated by people sitting towards the sides. Generally, the whole play was underlit, at times badly so.

"Measure For Measure" was a production with many fine moments; but a greater sense of theatre, better movement and grouping, and much, much more feeling from the majority of the actors would have made it outstanding.