Measure for Measure gender swap may be theatrical first

Male and female stars to share roles in new spin on Shakespeare tale of sex and power


Gender fluidity on stage will be taken to the next level when the actors Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden alternate the same role in a new version of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.

Donmar Warehouse in London has what may be a theatrical first – both actors will play the parts of the powerful deputy and the powerless novice in the same production.

Josie Rourke, the theatre’s artistic director, said the tale of sex and power was “hugely relevant” to the times we were living in. “It is an extraordinary workplace drama,” she said.

“It is about someone being put in charge of something they are under or over qualified to do, depending on your moral standpoint. It is about what happens when someone abuses power in the workplace.”

Often seen as , the plot centres on Angelo, a puritan hardliner on a mission to clean up the city he is put in charge of, and the sister of a man he sentences to death, Isabella. After pleading for her brother, Angelo offers to save him in return for sex.

By alternating the roles it raises questions about how the audience judges the characters’ morality. Rourke said : “Do you judge this thing differently if a woman is saying it and not a man ?”

The role swap will probably take place about halfway through, with some scenes being replayed, including the key moment when Angelo makes the offer to Isabella.

Atwell and Lowden, who have impressive theatre pedigrees, are perhaps better known for their film and TV work.

Atwell returned to the stage in February – in Dry Powder at the Hampstead – after her movie and TV success in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Agent Peggy Carter. She was also recently seen as Margarett Schlegel in the BBC’s production of Howards End.

Lowden was a lead character in the National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch before going on to win an Olivier award for best supporting actor for his role in Ibsen’s Ghosts. Since then he has notably been Nikolai Rostov in the BBC’s War and Peace and the fighter pilot who was not Tom Hardy in the movie Dunkirk.

Rourke said gender blindness on stage was the right thing. “I think Harriet Walter playing Brutus [in Phyllida Lloyd’s all female Julius Caesar at the Donmar] was the closest I’ve got to an understanding of that character. I think we’ve got a responsibility to live in the present.”

The play will not open until September so there is still time to decide precisely how it will work. But Rourke, who is stepping down as artistic director in 2019, promised the production would not be confusing. There was much in the play that could easily be cut, she said.

Recalling a 2013 Shakespeare production she worked on, starring Tom Hiddleston, Rourke said : “We probably performed less than two-thirds of Coriolanus and I didn’t get arrested by the Shakespeare police.”

Source : The Guardian du 24/04/18 par Mark Brown

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A propos de Hayley Atwell, actrice britannique
Hayley Atwell, née le 5 avril 1982 à Londres, Angleterre, est une actrice britannique. Après plusieurs téléfilms, elle obtient son premier rôle au cinéma dans Le Rêve de Cassandre de Woody Allen aux côtés d’Ewan McGregor et Colin Farrell. En 2008, elle apparait dans The Duchess avec Keira Knightley. En (...)
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