There is only one thing that everyone knows about Edward II and that final moment of the doomed king’s life is brought to life in wince-inducing technicolour in Lazarus Theatre’s entertaining, condensed production in the teeny-tiny Tristan Bates theatre.
Christopher Marlowe’s plays normally fail to hold my attention but with a running time of just 90 minutes and a cast that thunders up and down the stage, roaring, in the battle scenes, even I couldn’t fall asleep. Nor, it must be said, did I want to.
Most of the cast were men in shirts and ties, something that has become slightly stale owing to its appearance in everything from Greek Tragedy to Shakespeare, but it felt fresh here, giving a sense of numerous, identikit enemies against the flamboyant Edward and his lover Gaveston.
As the king’s favourite, Bradley Frith is an immensely charismatic actor clearly having a whale of a time-it was hard to pay much attention to anyone else when he was on the stage. There were also very strong performances from Andrew Gallo as Mortimer and Alex Zur as Kent.
Luke Ward-Wilkinson as Edward was extremely moving in the final scenes but could do with reining his performance in a little earlier on given the proximity of the audience.
I have finally started to pay attention to direction and there were some very clever touches from Ricky Dukes, who adapted the play as well as directing it. I particularly loved the lisping voice over of Edward III at the end, another moment that was the stuff of nightmares.
The production closes on Saturday and is very good value at less than £20 per ticket so I would urge a visit. If you need more of an incentive to go, Mark Gatiss was sitting right opposite me and seemed to be enjoying it immensely too.