Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure is one that can not be simply be put into either the comedy category or the tragedy category – in fact it is a play that defies any categorisation as this production shows with its use of blow up dolls and sparse stage.

Measure for Measure centres around the fate of Claudio (Ivanno Jeremiah), who is arrested by Lord Angelo (temporary leader due to the absence of the Duke) for getting his partner Juliette pregnant. His sister Isabella begs for his freedom, but Angelo suggests there could be another way to change his mind – a way that compromises Isabella’s principles.

Joe Hill-Gibbins production is bizarre and doesn’t make sense in places, but he succeeds in getting to the heart of the play and the characters. The video screens and the vibrating music adds a sense of the futuristic and creativity that succeeds in holding the audience’s attention throughout.

The clever video design by Chris Kondek, adds a documentary feel to the production and allows the audience to feel completely involved with what is happening and adds to the humour in places as well as the focus turns onto certain characters.

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It is very much a production of two halves, the first being more dramatic and almost sinister in places as Claudio is sentenced to death, yet in the second section it becomes more lighthearted but still with that edge of tension that is fascinating to watch as the production reaches its climax.

But it is the stripped back but stylish set design by Miriam Buether that allows the characters to become the centre and focus, rather than being distracted by anything unnecessary to the plot. There are some excellent performances to be enjoyed in the production, not least Romola Garai’s performance as the principled Isabella. Her performance during the scene when Angelo propositions her in order to save her brother is one of the most gripping and powerful moments in the production.

Meanwhile, Tom Edden as Pompey and Raphael Sowole as Master Froth, add some much needed lighthearted relief to a production that very nearly gets weighed down by all its moralising.

It is a clever production in the sense that it gets the audience thinking about the definition of sin and are we ever capable of giving up our principles to save someone that we love. But it sometimes feels as though it focuses too much on the morals rather than reaching a resolution for the characters – which means that the ending feels a bit rushed.

But overall, Measure for Measure is a fascinating and imaginative production, that takes a bit of time to settle down and get used to (still not sure exactly what the blowup dolls are meant to represent) but the intensity and strength of the performances by all of the cast is a strong positive in the production’s favour.

Measure for Measure is on at the Young Vic Theatre until the 14th November. For more information visit: http://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/measure-for-measure . 

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