Hammerpuzzle's Measure for Measure - Free

Mon 15th – Thu 25th August 2011


Madeleine Stottor

at 15:09 on 17th Aug 2011



From the moment you walk into Hammerpuzzle’s ‘Measure for Measure’, you are made to feel part of their world. The actors welcome their audience in, larking about with musical instruments and singing before opening the show with a raucous song (a key concern of which seems to be what you should eat on your toast...). This informal and engaging style continues throughout Hammerpuzzle’s show, making their ‘Measure for Measure’ entertaining and relaxed.

Hammerpuzzle Theatre Company is comprised largely of graduates from Bath Spa University, and aims not for fidelity to a play but its ‘essence’, focusing on storytelling. This ‘Measure for Measure’ is, therefore, not a faithful staging of Shakespeare’s problem play. It is set in a historically unspecific Vienna, and certain costume influences are reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Excellent direction by Barnaby Hatch makes it a smooth, yet fast-paced show, and Tamsin Kennard’s writing is generally clear and witty.

Sam Grogan’s Duke provides many of the play’s laughs, and Rebecca Jade Hammond, Jay Oliver Yip and Victoria Akers as Overdone, Lucio, and Pompey are wonderfully energetic. Elizabeth Cummins’ Isabella is very well characterised too. Ben Britton, as Claudio, has a suitably sad face for the role, but his relationship with Julietta remains underdeveloped and unconvincing, and Mariella’s voice might be beautiful but her feelings for Lord Angelo are not believable.

The big themes of right and wrong, justice, and hypocrisy which are central to the play are there, but the necessity of condensing ‘Measure for Measure’ into under an hour means that the detail and depth necessary to explore these fully are lost. Hammerpuzzle makes the most of its less than perfect performance space and delivers an original interpretation of the play, but although it is an enjoyable hour, its final ‘open silence’ is characteristic of the production more generally, which occasionally feels as though it has sacrificed development and depth for showmanship.


Edie Livesey

at 15:39 on 17th Aug 2011



The Hammerpuzzle Theatre Company’s Measure for Measure is lively and musical. This is an adaptation of the Shakespeare play in Modern English by Tamsin Kennard. The Company describes its adaptation process as a ‘hunt for the essence of the piece… forever storytelling.’ This attitude is certainly useful with regard to a problem play like this one. Added soliloquies provide a commentary on the characters’ motives for action, which are sometimes obscure in the original, and make the play more cohesive as a piece of narrative.

The script can provide a helpful gloss on the action and logic of the Shakespeare. One of Isabella’s (Elizabeth Cummins) difficult appeals to Angelo (Barnaby Hatch) is glossed, ‘What he did is bad but he is not bad’ for example. Angelo’s absolute hypocrisy is made explicit by an added explanation that the crime he is committing is the same as Claudio’s (Ben Britton).

Throughout, the adaptation makes explicable a poetic justice acknowledged to be ‘teetering on the edge of logic.’ Added lines bring out the humour of the piece. Lucio’s (Jay Oliver Yip) ‘Yes I recognize you: most people do!’ and Isabella’s ‘Is there no other way?’ make clear the inherent comedy in the disguise and bed tricks conventional in the city drama of the day.

Occasionally Kennard’s translation of the Shakespeare is unnecessary. Her alteration of ‘’Tis one thing to be tempted Escalus, another thing to fall’ to ‘but quite another thing to fall’, adds no extra clarity but ruins the metre. In general however, the script provides an excellent introduction to the play for anyone lacking the confidence to tackle the original.

The best thing about the performance was its energetic music and dance. The low-life scenes were vivacious and atmospheric. The lovesick Mariana’s (Tamsin Joanna Kennard) singing was perhaps a little too energetic, but maybe there’s no need to follow Tennyson. The costumes were excellent and the Duke’s ‘disguise’ was particularly well done. The costumes provided sufficient differentiation between the actors’ various roles, while the presence of all the actors in the brothel scenes hinted at the extent of immorality in Vienna, which is the premise of the play. Oliver Yip’s performance as Lucio was among the best, but this was a strong ensemble piece. The cast should be commended for the pace and credibility of their performance.

This adaptation of Measure for Measure makes the play more of a comedy than a tragicomedy, and removes much of the complexity and depth of passion from the original. However, it makes for an amusing fifty minutes, and, performed for free in a shopping centre, will, I hope, introduce the play to some of those not yet familiar with it.


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