Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure is a difficult play to present clearly but the Shawnigan Players are up to the challenge as finish the second week of their Cowichan Shakespeare Festival at the Gem o’ the Isle in Cowichan Station.
A strong cast, led by Rien Vesseur, who plays the Duke, includes Laura Faulkner as Isabella, Jacob Dennison as Angelo, Bill Levity as Lucio, Jan Ovans as Pompey, Mike Youden as the Provost, and Isaac Landry as Claudio.
When the Duke mysteriously leaves Verona, handing over control of the city to Angelo, it appears to mean a death sentence for young Claudio, who has been imprudent enough to get his girlfriend pregnant.
Angelo, it appears, is a stiff-necked man who wants to rule by the strict letter of the law. However, when he encounters the passionate novice nun, Isabella, who is Claudio’s sister, he finds his emotions are aswirl. Dennison and Faulkner balance each other well in these scenes, as both are able to immerse themselves in a fiery character when called upon to do so.
Meanwhile, the Duke, who hasn’t gone anywhere, has himself as a friar to see more realistically what’s happening in his city. He sees and hears plenty, too, and not all to his liking. Vesseur, with his expressive face, and commanding manner, is particularly suited to this role.
As is usual with Shakespeare, there are comic characters woven into the tale to add colour and brighten what could be some dark corners. In Measure for Measure, the most noticeable of these are Levity as the loutish Lucio, and Ovans as the pimp, Pompey. Both of them revel in playing these wily “baddies” and theatregoers enjoy their performances.
Measure for Measure may not be a Shakespeare play you know, but attend a performance during this festival and you’ll add it to the list of Shakespeare plays you like.