Dido Queen Of Carthage

Tue 12th – Fri 15th November 2013

reviews

Clara Molina Blanco

at 16:31 on 13th Nov 2013

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Dido Queen of Carthage successfully launches the start of the celebrations of the 450th anniversary of Christopher Marlowe’s birth. The play, which has been directed by JMK award-winning director Michael Oakley, designed by Mark Friend, who has worked at The National Theatre, and featured music from Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas has proven to be a fantastic staging of Marlowe’s work. Emmanuel Chapel was the intimate, and challenging, venue, which offered a unique experience to live theatre at its rawest, in which the playwright’s words and the actors’ performance are all there is to it.

Regarding the acting, let me say how much I loved how the cast worked as an ensemble. I would like to compliment Mary Galloway, who plays Queen Dido for her rendition of the character. She was completely graceful as the Queen. Galloway probably had the most demanding character of Marlowe’s play, and she made it her own. I am afraid Julian Mack’s interpretation of Aeneas did not live up to the ones delivered by the rest of the cast, which were fantastic. Fortunately he did seem to do better when accompanied, and being supported by other actors. I don’t want to forget Andrew Room as the “master puppeteer” behind Ascanius and Cupid. Regardless of the initial oddness of the puppets, Room was convincing.

I would finally like to briefly comment on the costumes and the music. It was refreshing having costumes and make-up that add to the story, and actually help telling it. It seems like much of the Renaissance amateur (and non-amateur) theatre done these days was given a closet and had to create their costumes out of it. In this production, however, it was treated with care. I could easily tell where the characters were from, who they were or what they did simply by what they were wearing. And believe me, it is commendable. Dido’s music was performed life by a chamber orchestra, and the singing of the actors and a soloist. Purcell’s music from Dido and Aeneas was a beautiful choice that was pivotal in the creation of the dramatic climax.

Despite the almost impeccable staging of Dido, there were a couple of things that could have been improved. The scene in which Dido asks for a punishment, and forgiveness, from Aeneas once he denies he ever tried to flee from Carthage was sadly rushed. Before the audience has the time to process how sickly in love Dido is, Aeneas is lifting her up and kissing her. The scene has the potential to be powerful and dramatic, but its delivery would not really allow it. It also was a bit funny that Dido looks as if in love with Aeneas since the very first time they share a scene. There were also times when there was more dramatic suspension than advisable. Ultimately, though it is not strictly related to the play itself, the lack of a programme was a bit annoying, and having one would have been nice.

All in all, Dido Queen of Carthage is a really good production. As it claimed to be, it “is a thrilling and visceral exploration of the destructive nature of obsessive love”. The Marlowe Festival couldn’t have begun in a better way, and I sincerely hope the rest of the plays that are yet to be staged within the Festival live up to this production.

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