Never in my life have I had a more enjoyable and entertaining Shakespeare experience. And that is saying something coming from the theatre world! Bard on the Beach’s Measure for Measure, a musical production, is set in 1900 in New Orleans. In the red light district. With Jazz. And Sex. And Prostitutes. And live music. Am I painting an interesting picture for you? Think Les Mis with a touch of Chicago and Moulin Rouge. I can guarantee this is one Shakespearean production you will not idly endure…
Measure for Measure. An Eye for an Eye. Justice demanding to be served. Mercy begged, truth revealed, forgiveness granted. Set in Storyville, a fitting title for an entertaining tale, the scenes change from tense to jovial within a matter of seconds, bewildering your emotions and enrapturing your attention. It is truly the very essence of ‘drama,’ yet considered by many to be classified as a ‘comedy,’ a genre which it also undoubtedly fulfills.
John Murphy has directed a brilliant version of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, set in the Red Light District where prostitutes are plenty and power is corrupt. Dripping with innuendo, scenes switch between raucous musical numbers to intense dramatic moments and obnoxiously entertaining characters are portrayed through fantastically energetic performances.
“Some rise by sin and some by virtue fall”
The southern accents worked exceedingly well with Shakespeare’s script, enriching the words with an interesting and understandable intonation. The musicality of the production complemented Shakespeare’s dramatic language, the meaning and beauty of the words flowing smoothly with each musical transition. The combination of the live music onstage, encompassing a banjo, trumpet and piano, the quaint country set, and the corseted costumes all transported you back to a time when collars were high and sexual urges ran deep.
“Virtue is bold and goodness never fearful”
I was completely enthralled by what was occurring onstage, and am continuously amazed at how Shakespeare’s stories continue to appear timeless. Perhaps that is why Shakespeare is considered the greatest writer of all time- He effectively, engagingly and entertainingly wrote plots we still connect with, or at least love to watch, to this day. That is why Shakespeare’s works are so prevalent in today’s literary and dramatic culture; Besides the breathtaking language that is preserved (with good reason), his stories inspire both empathy and escapism from the audience, no matter what the decade.