RSC Measure for Measure at The Lowry Manchester Review

1-5 October 2019

Measure for Measure

Reviewed by Jan Mellor

I adore Shakespeare and although I have most of his plays on DVD there is nothing that can match watching his masterpieces live on a British stage. I also love The Lowry theatre in Salford, so this evening was definitely going to be a winner! I was not aware of the storyline of Measure for Measure, but on reading this in the programme I was enthralled to see how the story of a novice nun who is put into an uncompromising position to save her brother’s life, was going to be portrayed on the stage. The set was inspiring, depicting an authentic Vienna with haunting city (and later prison blocks) back drops. 

The cast of prostitutes, pimps and drunkards were exceptional and comical – conveying excellently the moral converses between the world of the novice nun and the debauchery of the city. The Duke of Vienna – knowing well that his city is out of control leaves the city to seek solace and an answer to how he can turn his city around. He leaves the city in the hands of the despicable Angelo who blackmails the nun to sleep with him as payment (in kind) for freeing her brother Claudio who has been imprisoned for getting his fiancée pregnant. The scenes within the prison felt very real and the contrast of the prison environment and that of the world of the Duke with the dance hall and luxuries, the poverty and humbleness of the nun and the compassion from her worked very well. I will not divulge any more of the plot as the intrigue in how this tale weaves and wraps itself around these superb actors cannot be shared and must be experienced. Albeit to say that as expected at all RSC performances, the talent of each and every actor on stage this evening was outstanding however special mention must go to the sublime performances by Lucy Phelps (the nun), Antony Byrne (the Duke) and Michael Patrick who played Elbow (the constable) as these three stood out for their sheer brilliance against the cast of first class actors. The tale is funny, tragic and exciting, with performances that made you sit agape, laugh out loud – the prisoner Barnadine (played by the fabulous Graeme Brookes) was hilarious and weep silently with the injustice of the nun’s predicament. The performance transfers the audience to centuries ago when pride, virtue and dignity were important, when power and deceit reigned and when people’s lives were incomparable. This show depicted these times with sheer credibility. It is a masterpiece.

As always, the RSC and Shakespeare’s wonderful alliance works its magic – the story maybe isn’t as well-known as Shakespeare’s greats, but it is a definite must for anyone who enjoys sheer acting talent and the opportunity to see theatre at its best.

A stunning performance – a masterpiece!

Rating: 4/5

Tickets cost from £18.50 (booking fees may apply).

The Royal Shakespeare Company: Measure for Measure is at The Lowry in Manchester from 1-5 October 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.

The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000

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