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Bard on the Beach 

Measure for Measure

by William Shakespeare

Director Kathryn Shaw Costume Mara Gottler Stage and Scenery Kevin McAllister Lighting Gerald King Sound and Musical arrangement Stephen Bulat Fight Director Nicholas Harrison Stage Manager Stephen Courtenay

Dates 14 June - 23 September  2006   Venue Under the tents in Vanier Park Reviewer Ed Farolan


Measure for Measure was written in 1603, the beginning of James I's rule. Shakespeare was a favorite of this monarch, and in fact was granted the greatest possible compliment by endowing his company with the status of king's players

This play is one of the playwright's problem plays, according to Shakesperean critics, because it cannot be easily classified as tragedy or comedy.

Some critics consider it a particularly "dark" comedy for its bitterness and cynicism. It certainly raises important moral issues of Christianity. A very intriguing ethical question -- whether or not Isabella (Karen Rae) should commit a sin in order to save her brother Claudio (Kyle Rideout) -- is clearly answered: No, definitely not. James was a very religious man who many considered a bible fundamentalist and therefore stuck to the basic Christian precepts of life. Of course, in today's society, this ethical question is not clearly answered.

The play's structure is based around secret identities and a lot of manipulation. But manipulation towards the ethical. First, Duke Vincentio (Scott Bellis) disguises himself as a friar, and advises other characters to carry out two other secret plans involving mistaken identity: Mariana (Melissa Poll), a fiancee of Angelo (Ian Butcher) takes Isabella's place, and the head of a dead pirate is sent in place of Claudio's.

The Duke is unfailingly wise, a good, kind, devoted leader, undoubtedly an attempt by Shakespeare to mirror his king which convinces me to classify Measure for Measure more of an ethical play where good triumphs over evil, where the biblical "tooth for a tooth, eye for an eye" or "justice be done", is reflected in the play's title. However, Christian compassion makes its twist at the end when mercy and not justice reigns (similar to Portia's "quality of mercy" in Merchant of Venice).

I must say though that despite the problematic and ethical nature of the play, this is one of the best Bard on the Beach productions I've seen. I've always admired Kathryn Shaw as a director because of Studio 58 and the professional quality of actors that are graduated from Langara. I also would like to congratulate all the actors for their outstanding acting abilities, their crisp and clear diction, and their flexibility, as these actors also appear in the other mainstage production, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The stage and scenery design by Kevin McAllister was simple and functional, yet innovative, as Shakespeare's plays were meant to be. The costumes designed by Mara Gottler in the 1920s to 30s period were fabulous. Stephen Bulat's sound design and compositions were very creative.

Congratulations to Christopher Gaze (whom I once referred to as Amazing Gaze) for what I predict will be another successful season.

© 2006 Ed Farolan