Shakespeare's “Measure for Measure” at London's Barbican Center


SHe plays as if time has nothing to say to her, as if fashions were only there to be overlooked: the Royal Shakespeare Company has been pacing since its inception in 1960, like a proud queen who knows her power is not in decision, but in constant persistence. In fact, “Her Majesty The Queen” really is the supreme patron of the legendary Stratford-upon-Avon acting troupe. She is committed to her and her persistent aura. On this rainy London evening “measure by measure” is played, Shakespeare's 1604 premiered “dark comedy” about the sense and insanity of totalitarian views of the law. Directed by Gregory Doran, the artistic director of the troupe. He has moved the action forward to Vienna from 1900, the time of Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt and Karl Kraus.

Simon Strauss

But instead of subordinating everything to this transformational idea, it is very reluctant to refer to the changed framework, basically only through the costumes and the program booklet. No commentary, no foreign text – you do not even play over a late string quartet by Beethoven with Schönberg. As a matter of fact, on this three-hour theater evening, one sometimes has the feeling of watching a classical concert or ballet, because everything here is so well played and artfully coordinated with each other.

Conversations in the center

It is not that common in German theaters that the actresses and actors put all their energy and care to bring the spoken sentences with their body movements, facial expressions and gestures in a dynamic multi-sound. To play your roles in such a way that everything seems compellingly natural, every short break pondered, every look exactly calculated.

It's a very cinematic spectacle that you see here, whose tension is created by fast, razor-sharp dialogue. Through an expressive facial expressions on departure or a passionate turning away at the beginning of the scene. The conversations between the characters are in the center of attention this evening, their twists tell the story. Aesthetically, you do not get involved in any experiments, you are familiar with a few equipment ideas and image projections in the background. But in terms of content, complete abandonment of the text in old Shakespearean English is, of course, a hard break with today's usual theatrical conventions.

While such an evening in Germany would quickly denounce itself as a “stale classical theater”, in London this is “out of competition” and is of course accepted as part of the diverse theater scene. The house is full, the spectators sit in their comfortable armchairs with popcorn on their laps and are astonished at the players' sovereign sense of skill.

Maximum abuse of power

Above all, Sandy Grierson in the role of Angelo, the fallen angel who “flows in the veins of snow instead of blood,” and who in a blind zeal puts pre-marital sex under the penalty of death, is fantastic. His warped body, which is unfavorably pinched by all clothing, testifies to the double standards he obeys, and which drives him to the maximum abuse of power: For the pardon of her brother, who has committed a criminal offense under the new moral code, he asks Isabella, who has just taken her chastity vow, sexual docility.

(tagToTranslate) Gregory Doran (t) Sigmund Freud (t) Gustav Klimt (t) Karl Kraus (t) Barbican Center (t) London


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