28 May 2009

Dido, Queen of Carthage by Christopher Marlowe

Iarbus : Obi Abili
Singer/Lord : Jake Arditti
Aeneas : Mark Bonnar
Anna : Siân Brooke
Cloanthus : Gary Carr
Jupiter/Lioneus : Alan David
Juno/Nurse : Susan Engel
Ascanius : Freddie Hill (this night)
(Ascanius : Thomas Patten)
Dido : Anastasia Hille
Achates : Stephen Kennedy
Mercury/Hermes : Kyle McPhail
Venus : Siobhan Redmond
Ganymede/Sergestus : Ryan Sampson
Cupid : Ceallach Spellman (this night)
(Cupid : Theo Stevenson)

Director: James Macdonald
Set Designer: Tobias Hoheisel

Seen during the middle of it's run at the Cottesloe in the middle of a row towards the back of The Pit.

Extract from the programme for Dido, Queen of Carthage:

Dido, queen of carthage
First published in 1594, the year after Marlowe died. There are only three copies of this text in existence. The title page claims the play was first performed by Her Majesties Children of the Chapel, and was co-authored by Thomas Nashe. It’s unclear what Nashe’s role might have been, as the play is thematically and poetically almost a blueprint for Marlowe’s subsequent work, but totally unlike what we know of Nashe’s playwriting.

First play?
An adaptation primarily of Vergil’s Aeneid, which figured largely in an Elizabethan grammar school education. The script certainly has all the precocity of a first play by an ambitious young controversialist, from the moment of its opening stage direction: Here the curtains draw. There is discovered JUPITER dandling GANYMEDE upon his knee, and MERCURY lying asleep – a ganymede was Elizabethan slang for a male prostitute, and this scene is entirely Marlowe’s invention. Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564, the son of a shoemaker, and went to Cambridge on a religious scholarship funded by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The future atheist and fan of boys and tobacco seems to have learnt most of his Latin from the pagan poets, closest to his heart being Ovid – whose Amores he translated (published and immediately banned in the years after Marlowe’s death) – and who also in Heroides has Dido write a long letter to Aeneas telling him why she will kill herself.

Copyright James MacDonald 2009
When I heard about this production, the inclusion of Anastasia Hille was the hook-that-made-me-book and she did not disappoint. For me, she's the Tilda Swinton of the stage and she showed me things I had not seen her do before, which is always a thrill.

There was some deliciously amusing bits of staging and I think everyone had a lot of fun. I have seen very little Marlowe (unless you subscribe to the view that he wrote all of Billie's stuff). Why is that?
I am rather cross that all the press photos seem to have the yellow curtains so I can't show you the beautiful cobalt sea. I can't find a silly enough picture of Ryan Sampson, either. Oh - the kids were quite good in this, which is a godsend.