Review: The Marlowe Showcase

The show that got LILY FUNK thinking

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I must admit I have never seen any of Marlowe’s plays, so I was a bit trepidatious when entering the ADC Theatre at 4:30pm on a Thursday to see, and indeed, review such an influential figure. 

What followed was perhaps the most confusing play I have ever seen, and upon writing this review I even still have trouble comprehending its form. The play begins with an opening musical number with the entire chorus – fairly out of the ordinary for a play that isn’t also a musical.

Afterwards, however, songs were far and few in between, which led me to suspect that they only introduced the aspect to include a racial minority on the keyboard in attempts to balance out what is a purely white cast (which was done successfully I might add).

Instead, we are treated to scene after scene of confusing dialogue and characters. It was difficult to place this play within any single time or place, as both the style of language and clothing would change from scene to scene.

Image credit: Rob Eager

After some quick googling, it appears Marlowe is supposed to have been a great influence on Shakespeare, and that is certainly on display here with so many sections feeling like you could find them in one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. However, other bits feel wildly incongruent, even strangely modern, perhaps suggesting Marlowe himself was ahead of his peers and his time.

Before I could get a grip on the plot, the focus of the play would randomly shift to a new topic. The lack of a protagonist (male or female) meant the revolving door of different personae left me in a spin. Although the acting was spot on, acting can only exist in tandem with characters. They could have been hashed out more, or more time could be given to the more proficient actors, but such is the nature, and problems, of the democratic world of theatre.

Image credit: Rob Eager

Although most of it was quite funny, many sketches were hit and miss and certainly I was laughing at some points more than others. A great soliloquy about wanking really helped inject (pardon the pun) some humour into the ordeal, but a section describing a slapstick scene of a man’s brother tripping and breaking his legs fell flat.

The set design was minimal, with a single chair on stage that would be used fairly conventionally for what is the only and central prop. The staging was bizarre, with characters sometimes facing away for the audience for an entire scene making it impossible to see what they were saying or looking at.

Marlowe’s Showcase left me questioning a lot of things. Is this what theatre should be? Completely pushing the boundaries of normality and formality, while remaining impenetrable and inaccessible to the general public? Should I, as a fresher with zero experience in a theatre on or off the stage, be reviewing the great works of geniuses? Should I even be reviewing at all?

To answer those questions, I’d have to give the play the benefit of the doubt and assume it is a post-modern Elizabethan classic that really shapes what theatre can, and will, be.

5 Stars