It would probably shock even Christopher Marlowe to know that his plays, including Edward II, would still be performed after 450 years. It would perhaps shock him even more to learn that they could still be relevant and inventively staged, providing audiences with a fresh perspective on a classic tale.
In another shock for Marlowe, we’ve entered the Tristan Bates Theatre to the sound of electronic dance music, the stage is lit overhead by harsh strip lighting and an ever-growing group of men walk the stage in modern suits, casting suspicious glances at each other. It lets us know immediately we will be watching a staging of Edward II very different to the original. The adaptation comes from Director Ricky Dukes, who has very considerately maintained the language, while adding a certain art-house feel to the entire production, and billing Edward II as the “First Gay Play”.
The King is dead, and Edward has acceded to the throne, his first act as King is to return the banished Gaveston to the realm, and his noble men are not happy. Edward frequently refers to “my Gaveston” as his friend, in reality they are lovers and cavort around flaunting their courtship with quite literal gay abandon. The Noble Men, led by Young Mortimer and supported by the King’s consort, Isabella, set in motion a plan of treachery and treason which wouldn’t be out of place in any modern-day Netflix series.