5-30 Aug (not 18) 1545 (1645) @ C central, North Bridge
By Danielle Farrow
For the most part, the language of The Demise of Christopher Marlowe, in the style of the Elizabethan stage, does work, and managing this is an achievement in writing (by Sarah Goddard, also directing), but clumsy constructions of speech and thought often jump out. There are inconsistencies in what characters say which do not come across as psychologically reasoned or deliberate differences of opinion, but rather as flaws in the logic of the piece. Also, the exploration of motivation is often simplistic and heavy-handed, particularly with regard to Elizabeth I.
This dramatisation – with a fair bit of poetic licence – of events leading up to the stabbing of famous poet-playwright Kit Marlowe, or Marley (Elizabethan spelling rarely being consistent even in signatures), and the possible reasons for his death, is intriguing but not always clear. Much seems to hinge on paranoia and the carelessness of Marlowe’s rapid tongue, rather than specifics of his adventurous life. Said adventures are amusingly touched upon in a well-played early scene as rapid as his wit, but a little too swiftly introduced and dealt with to actually inform. Timothy Bond, as Marlowe, displays a keen ability with entertaining wordplay and teasing mockery, however in more dramatic scenes his energy goes on somewhat forced vocals rather than into real feeling. This is, though, a fairly strong central performance and it carries the play, for he is not really matched by the other actors, especially where a few of them give in to demonstrating ‘I’m evil’ or over-‘emoting’ for the tragic elements of this story.
The subject matter is very interesting and the play does explore some of the theories that have been suggested about Marlowe’s life and death, but the play is often inconsistent in logic and presentation, and the filmic use of a background musical score for ‘dramatic‘ scenes was, again, heavy-handed.
The Demise of Christopher Marlowe shows a certain accomplishment in the writing style, and interesting characters from history – worthy of being drawn to public attention – are here presented in intriguing fashion. The overall production, however, is limited in its execution and doesn’t live up to the concept.