Tag Archives: Mariah Gale

“Measure For Measure” at Shakespeare’s Globe

For all its charms, the Globe is not a comfortable theatre and at Wednesday’s press night of Measure for Measure it was pretty much like an oven. It’s testament to Dominic Dromgoole’s new production that the audience adored the show under such conditions. Exploiting the play’s bawdy background, the cast creates such riotous fun I am surprised they didn’t pass out. Every performer won my admiration.

His last turn as director in charge of the theatre, Dromgoole goes all out with the ‘groundlings’ standing in the pit; they are pushed around by pimps and prostitutes before the play’s even begun. And although there is a close-up branding of one prostitute, emblematic of the puritanical theme of justice, the overall tone is fun. Led by a boisterous Mistress Overdone (Petra Massey), with a great comic turn from Brendan O’Hea’s Lucio – and plenty of ad-libbing – the licentious lord it over this play.

Mariah Gale and Kurt Egyiawan

The bawds make a strong contrast with what is the main thrust of the story: Angelo’s condemnation, then blackmail, of Claudio (Joel MacCormack) and his sister Isabella – offering to save him in return for sex with her. All three deliver powerfully understated performances. Kurt Egyiawan’s Angelo gave me a chill, despite that weather. He’s wonderful at suggesting anguish behind his evil impulses – the uselessness of Isabella trying to defend herself when his “false o’erweighs your true” is delivered with near resignation. Mariah Gale gives an eloquent and credible portrayal of as Isabella, making the character’s religion and integrity central.

Despite the excellent performances, Dromgoole doesn’t manage that precarious balance between scenes of comedy and tension. There’s a lack of subtlety, shown best in Dominic Rowan’s absconding Duke: a powerful actor, with first class delivery, he rattles through plot points for laughs and abandons ambiguity about his motives. But Dromgoole knows the venue better than anyone and, while the tactic is vaguely disappointing, it’s in keeping with a crowd-pleasing blockbuster of a show.

Until 17 October 2015


Photos by Marc Brenner

“Proof” at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Immediately before the interval of Proof, just opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory, the heroine drops a bombshell, claiming that she, and not her recently deceased famous father, has made an important mathematical discovery. It’s a fantastic moment of drama – so much so you can’t wait for the break to be over, which is surely indicative of the high quality of both play and production.

The genius father, who fought a losing battle for sanity most of his life, was looked after by his devoted Catherine, who put her own career on hold to care for him. Dealing with his death is proving difficult: in the first scene she talks to his ghost, portrayed with great emotional control by Matthew Marsh, and there’s a complex sibling relationship with her sister Claire, played wonderfully by Emma Cunniffe, to factor in. Add to the mix a former student of her father’s, Jamie Parker, sniffing around old notebooks for an academic scoop, and there are plenty of components to this fascinating equation.

David Auburn’s artfully written play deserves all the acclaim it has received since its New York premiere in 2000. It’s a controlled piece, easy to admire, full of subtlety actors can work with. Clearly visualised, the text must be a joy to direct; Polly Findlay does a superb job and brings out some humour with the help of Parker’s affable stage presence. Playing another Hal, after his triumph as Prince Henry at the Globe last year, his Catherine here takes the lead. Fearful that she shares her father’s instability as well as his intelligence, this is a demanding role for both actor and audience. Mariah Gale is wonderful in the part – frequently on the brink of tears yet with a wicked sense of humour – this play gives all the proof we need of her talent.

Until 27 April 2013


Photo by Nobby Clark

Written 22 March 2013 for The London Magazine

“The Pitchfork Disney” at the Arcola Theatre

The Arcola’s new production of Philip Ridley’s The Pitchfork Disney marks the play’s 21st anniversary. It’s a study in terror, which might lead us to speculate whether our collective fears have changed in texture over the last two decades. Ultimately Ridley deals with such basic, and base, themes that his work remains alarming and powerful.

Under Edward Dick’s faultless direction, Chris New and Mariah Gale are remarkable as Presley and Haley – pill-popping, chocolate gorging twins with a psychotic bent. Agoraphobics who wallow in their piteous existence, they tell stories to each other not just for escapism but to perpetuate their trauma.

And what stories, hypnotically poetic, ruthlessly insightful and grotesquely overblown as they are. The cast revel in the telling, with New especially adept in bringing out the morbid, humorous edge. His Presley peeps through the letterbox, looking at the real world but describing his imagined apocalypse.

When the door to this disgusting flat is opened, inviting in a “pretty boy and a foreigner”, we start to see connections between their fantasies and what really exists. Cosmo Disney has a thought-provoking story of his own, and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett’s performance in the role is captivating. He damns the twins as “ancient children” and mocks mankind’s desire for a “daily dose of disgust”, making his dissecting analysis more like a vivisection.

Disney is a performer and Stewart-Jarrett preens to perfection, with a cabaret trick of eating cockroaches. But The Pitchfork Disney doesn’t just curl toes – it surprises. When Disney’s fellow performer Pitchfork arrives, it is into a bizarre, spooky and fantastic scene that doesn’t deserve a plot spoiler. Presley’s nightmare starts to come to life and they play’s conclusion is truly desperate.

If people such as these exist, they surely don’t get this weird without something happening to them. Ridley never offers us a specific reason and his play is so full of themes that the mind boggles. In this way, he leaves us to examine our own fears of “freak accidents and freaks” – and that of course, is truly scary.

Until 17 March 2012


Written 2 February 2012 for The London Magazine