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A review of Measure for Measure at Tolethorpe near Stamford

Measure for Measure, the first of two Shakespeare plays on stage at Tolethorpe, got the season off to a polished start.

Although it’s not the best-known of the Bard’s tales, clear deliveries of verse and prose cut through background sounds that included rustling leaves and the bleating of distant sheep, making the unfolding plot fine to follow.

Focusing on justice, morality and retribution - and tackling the rather nasty issue of sexual coercion - Measure for Measure shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it manages to be, but the two-dozen-strong cast brings the right levels of light and dark to the stage.

Measure for Measure at Tolethorpe
Measure for Measure at Tolethorpe

Standout performances include Simon Hix Litten’s loose-moraled Lucio, who takes the lion’s share of the laughs through his exchanges with the duke (Patrick Turnham), unconsciously slandering him to his face while thinking he’s gossiping to a lowly friar.

Lucy Hobbs plays soon-to-be-nun Isabella, a character who thunders like Greta Thunberg, troubled by injustices and wearing a strained expression at all times.

The man causing her woes, the duke’s deputy, Angelo (Thomas Dorman), also gets to turn up the emotions, moving from merciless to lustful and on to self-pitying in a seamless flow shared through his soliloquies.

Tickets for Measure for Measure are available from the Tolethorpe Theatre box office
Tickets for Measure for Measure are available from the Tolethorpe Theatre box office

The mood is lightened by the regular appearance of the prostitutes led by Mistress Overdone (Karen Newman) and pimp Pompey (John Padwick), who laugh and joke and seem to shoulder none of the moral burdens of the more pious characters.

They also wear the best outfits, with their plumes, frills and knickerbockers the wonderful work of costume designer Miriam Spring Davies and her wardrobe team.

The simple set comprises a solid piece of carpentry - a double staircase up to a platform that frames the stage and screens the musicians - a five-piece playing arrangements of the music of Strauss to accompany some parts of the play.

Those wishing to make a night of it can start their evening in the restaurant at Tolethorpe Hall, which is now run by The Secret Kitchen and offers a choice of three summery starters, mains and desserts.

A different menu accompanies As You Like It, which starts tonight (Tuesday, June 13).

Measure for Measure is back on stage on Tuesday, June 20, and finishes on Saturday, June 24.

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