Review: Edward II, National Theatre (Olivier)

Some aspects of this production don’t work but the strength of the play and the excellence of the central performances carry it through. Vanessa Kirby, who I loved in Three Sisters at the Young Vic is again exceptional as Edward’s wife Isabelle and is matched by a first class performance by John Hefferman as Edward himself. Some of the action is filmed live on stage and shown on video screens at the side. This can be absurd, as when the barons are plotting against Edward inside a wooden box on stage, only shown on the monochrome video projections, but it can be very effective, e.g. Edward wordlessly led around by his captors, steadily walking towards the backward-moving camera while the main action takes place on stage. Marlowe’s play may well be the first in the English language to depict a gay relationship which Edward’s description of his love for Piers Gaveston makes quite explicit, as does the homophobic contempt of the barons and the manner of Edward II’s death.

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