Measure for Measure

Date 19th July 2018
Society Holt Dramatic Society
Venue The Glove Factory Studios, Holt, Wiltshire
Type of Production Play
Director Simon Blacksell and Fiona Young


Author: Matthew Heaton

Though classed as a Comedy, ‘Measure for Measure’ is really a powerfully intellectual drama. It has unconventional characters and themes and has unresolved questions and conclusions at the end. Without care it can be difficult for an audience, particularly those new to it, to know quite what to make of the play at times and it needs exceptional contributions from both the Director and the actors to be effective on stage. I am very pleased to say that Holt Dramatic Society were able to comfortably achieve this with this production. 

Though originally set in 17th Century Vienna, the Director had moved this to the Swinging 1960s, which worked very well. Dialogue and scene changes were all conducted at suitable pace, which added to the controlled and professional feeling of the production. The space used at the Glove Factory Studios worked most effectively, making excellent use of the existing buildings and creating an enclosed performing area for an outdoor production. Set dressing was generally minimalist but of the period and effective. I really liked the glass window effect used for the prison scene. Lighting for when it got darker worked well. Sound effects and musical interludes of 60’s style supported the setting, scenes changes and general play themes well. The 1960s styling worked well with the costumes too. Hair and Make-up complemented the costumes well and props were generally in fitting with the period. 

Holt Dramatic Society has an excellent reputation for the quality of their acting across their whole cast, and this production was no exception to that. Duke Vincentio is a truly enormous part and was put together in this production as a Duke that we could empathize with and understand. The inquisition and revelation in Act 5 is a difficult scene to complete successfully and was very well-done - a very natural performance. Angelo was performed with great strength, as the Duke’s cold and authoritarian deputy. Thia was achieved through both words and physicality, which never lapsed. Movements and dialogue were precise and controlled. We were then able to see his control change and weaken in Act 2. Overall, an excellent interpretation of the character. Escalus is a very difficult part that was portrayed really well and in a very well-controlled manner. Playing a condemned man for the whole show is never easy and this was achieved very nicely by Claudio. We were able to see him portray a very effective whole range of emotions in the prison scene.

Lucio acts as some light relief to the world of Vincentio and Angelo and a memorable role was created, making the very best of this part. This was through great comic timing, a thorough understanding of the words used and some delightful physicality. A Super job.Isabella is a really difficult part to play as it is nearly all in some kind of heightened emotional state but the actress made a real success of the part and in the range of emotional performances that she was able to create. There was a strong on-stage chemistry in that relationship with Angelo that made it all the more compelling.  Provost felt like a constant in the production and was constructed and played very well. Pompey is seen as one of the great comic roles in Shakespeare’s later comedies and the actor was well-made for it, making the best of every line given, taking the audience with him and interacting with them well. We saw delightful performances from Mistress Overdone and Elbow too. In fact, all of the remaining cast and the Backstage Crew all completed their roles and assisted with the production well, enhancing the overall performance. 

In summary, Measure for Measure is no easy Shakespeare play to put on, but Holt Dramatic Society made a real success of it. This was through excellent on-stage performances from the whole cast, supported by simple but effective staging. The audience’s full attention and thought was maintained throughout. Directors Simon Blacksell and Fiona Young, the whole cast and the production team should be well-pleased with their work.  Thank you for a great evening’s thought provoking entertainment.