Measure for Measure

by William Shakespeare 3 Jul 2023 - 6 Jul 2023

Presented by Moving Stories in partnership with West Cornwall Women's Aid.

'Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.'

Moving Stories returns to The Minack to address Measure for Measure’s themes of silenced women, weaving original new writing into Shakespeare’s play written in collaboration with local women in refuge and Cornish writer Jane Pugh.

Vienna’s streets are rife with sin and vice; Duke Vincentio wants to clean it up. Appointing his Deputy Angelo to do the deed, new laws are enforced which forbid pregnancy out of wedlock. Claudio is put on death row, leaving his sister and nun Isabella to consider an indecent, immoral proposal.

Moving Stories returns once more to the Minack to re-examine Shakespeare’s timeless tragicomedy in partnership with Women’s Aid, giving a voice to Shakespeare’s silenced women. Set among the corrupted corridors of power, this play could have been written for today. Fusing memorable storytelling, live music, projection and eye-catching design for the magical Minack stage, Measure for Measure will ask the big questions about freedom, empowerment and morality.

Directed by Emma Gersch, with Movement Direction by Kitty Randle, Music by Matthew Reeve, Design by Kate Unwin and Creatively Produced by Dana Hudson.

Review by Jenni Balow


Warning: This play may seriously affect your sleep, as you spend the small hours measuring-up the moral dilemmas raised by William Shakespeare in the early 17th century, that are still so relevant today.

What you need to ask yourself is whether you would be prepared to surrender your vow of chastity, sworn as a nun under Holy Orders, to save the life of your brother who is faces a sentence of death for breaking a law of morality.

That is what is being demanded of the nun, Isabella, by Lord Angelo, the man in power in Vienna, and shockingly, but maybe understandably, by her brother Claudio, who is guilty of transgressing a city law forbidding sex before marriage with his girlfriend Juliet, who is heavily pregnant.

It's a tough call - will Isabella's faith be corrupted, or will her friends, supporters and admirers devise a sub-plot to save her status, and the head of the desperate Claudio? 

This will keep you awake, but add to that the apparent willingness of the Lord Angelo's abandoned fiance, Mariana, to forgive and forget, even in the clear face of his very recent intended violation of the nun, plus his cruel desertion when her marriage dowry was lost in a shipwreck that claimed her own brother's life, and you will spend more of the night considering the play's puzzles and ambiguities.

The ever-classy Minack award winning theatre company, Moving Stories, most excellently directed by Emma Gersch, presents a Measure For Measure that has been examined in a series of creative workshops for members of Women's Aid in West Cornwall.

As survivors of domestic abuse, they recognised the sexual coercion that is present throughout the play and the refuge writer's group led by Jane Pugh, contributed their own responses to the production.

Placards raised by the lively residents of Vienna proclaim - Not Your Possession, Resist Oppression, I Am Not Your Opinion, We Are Not Alone and Seen And Heard - represent their views, as well as opposing the strict laws that have been imposed in the city.

It is a tragedy and comedy with stunningly good sound from composer Matthew Reeve, who begins the play with a beating blast of revelry, house music song and dance, contrasting with the damp, echoing drips deep in the city dungeons.

The stage is decked in dazzling bunting and the 10 actors, many with multiple roles, match the colour and vibrancy unfolded by creative director Kitty Randle with her team including Dana Hudson, Kate Unwin, Emily Obasohan, Kieran Capaldi, Louise Manifold and Imogen Brown.

So essential on this stage on a cliff, every word is clearly spoken and heard, thanks to the sterling cast, and sound and lighting designer Matthew Vale.

This play is sub-titled The Silenced Woman, but Sophie Spreadbury is given time and space to articulate her conflicting emotions in her role as the nun Isabella, with moving simplicity, perfectly complemented by the body language of Christopher Staines as Lord Angelo and James Tucker as the Duke, the noisily expressive Lance West as Claudio, Barnadine and Elbow, with the extrovert Marc Zayat in outstanding form, playing the two-faced Lucio.

Kieran Capaldi is in his element as the pimp, Pompey, flattening his elaborate quiff to double as Friar Thomas, with Sophia Priolo playing both Mariana and Froth, Faye Billing as the exuberant Mistress Overdone and others, ever-efficient Michaela Bennison as the provost and Tim Hibberd as both Escalus and the funny and timid executioner, Abhorsen.

Yes, well worth losing some sleep over this one.