The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)’s production of Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine was exciting, dramatic, and emotional. The show combined both parts of Marlowe’s seminal play into 200 action-packed minutes.
The staging of the play was minimal but effective. Michael Boyd’s direction used the entire theatre, with supporting players declaiming their lines from the audience. Characters were introduced and their changes in fortune viscerally illustrated with simple costume changes or splashes of blood. We see Tamburlaine decimating king after king, and when Bajazeth (Sagar I M Arya) is wheeled out in an iron cage, you feel the hairs stand on the back of your neck at what could possibly happen next.
The violent deaths were stylishly graphic, and, combined with the throbbing bass of timpani and orchestral undercurrents, lent to a heightened sense of the macabre.
The eponymous Scythian shepherd played as arrogance personified by Jude Owusu, delivered Marlowe’s beautiful lines with both pomp as well as pain. You fear for Zenocrate (Rosy McEwen) when she pleads for her father’s life, and even hope against hope when, as Callapine, she spurs other kings to rise up against the tyrannical Tamburlaine.
A great supporting cast worked to show how unbridled ambition for power unravels with chilling consequences. Some parts were a little over-acted, but, given the scale of the drama, can be excused since the languid but emotion-logged language towers above everything else – little nuances in quieter scenes and smacking theatregoers in the face during vicissitudinal melodrama.
Review by Julian Ng.