AU ABROAD

Theatre Review: Edward II – The Seymour Centre, Sydney (Performances until 17th October)

King Edward II sits on his thrown holding his sword, looking despondent.
Edward II. Photo: Marnya Rothe. Image courtesy of Sport for Jove

Known for his overreaching protagonists, English playwright Christopher Marlowe’s 1593 play Edward II presents an account of the deposition of King Edward II by his nobles and the Queen, who resent the influence the King's favourite, Gaveston (Michael Whalley) has in court and state affairs. Although it was never proven that the relationship between the two was romantic, that is how it is portrayed in this Sport for Jove version, as we see the King (Julian Garner) flaunt his lover, uncaring of the concerns from his nobles, his wife and the country.

The Queen makes an announcement into a microphone with her son and Mortimer.
Edward II. Photo: Marnya Rothe. Image courtesy of Sport for Jove

Demonstrating how excess and passion ultimately end with catastrophic result, the King is coerced into exiling his beloved Gaverston for the good of the country. However, in an attempt to regain some hint of affection from her King, the Queen (Georgia Adamson) makes a promise to have the motion repealed while secretly organising with the noble Mortimer (James Lugton) to have Gaverston murdered. Once his lover has returned things quickly take a turn for the worse with the nobles conspiring to kill him and civil war erupting. The Queen flees with her son to her home in France, returning with an army, people start losing their heads and shit really hits the fan.

The King embraces Gaveston.
Edward II. Photo: Marnya Rothe. Image courtesy of Sport for Jove

Edward II presents how personal relationships inevitably infect political outcomes and begs the question – where should the line be drawn between the two. With exceptional performances from the entire cast, in particular Julian Garner as Edward II, it is slightly unknown who you are supposed to favour in this political game of manipulation and deceit. With such a cast of flawed characters where is the hero of the piece - the person we want to triumph? By the plays conclusion you can’t help but feel a degree of pity for the King, as you would any animal treated cruelly, but is it justice? Or does the play highlight that there is no such thing as justice?

The King and Gaveston are confronted by the Bishop of Cantebury.

The minimalist set design is perfect, with the transitions between scenes flawless. There is, ironically, nothing excessive about the play’s aesthetics, with nothing to detract from the skill and power of the performances. A play about illicit desires, deception, loss and friendship, Edward II is gripping and complex, with enough twists and turns to keep you thoroughly enthralled. A harrowing spectacle, the audience was heard to audibly gasp as certain scenes played out, as we bared witness to one man’s spectacular fall from grace.

Edward II will enjoy performances at the Seymour Centre until October 17th. For tickets and more details, head to: http://www.seymourcentre.com/events/event/edward-ii/