Fundamentally, the decision to update the action to the 1960s was flawed. The power play and social structures of the East End criminal underworld do not sit well with those of the Plantagenet court. It is a concept imposed on the text rather than flowing naturally from it. The original script has been radically cut and not in a way that promotes clarity and understanding.
Often a poor production can be rescued by good performances. Alas, I cannot report that it was the case here. Menace is never conveyed well by shouting; torment does not come over at all when you cannot hear the actor from your seat in the 4th row. Similarly the much-vaunted sensuality promised by the programme notes fails to ignite the stage – a kiss between two men is not shocking and it takes more than a couple of smooches to indicate real, visceral passion.
One thing that I would urge the cast and backstage team to observe is the need for silence in the wings. On too many occasions, I was able to hear the actors waiting to come on stage for their next scene better than those I was supposed to be watching on stage.
The production has suffered from problems – not least the sudden withdrawal of an actor with less than 24 hours to go till opening night. For this reason, I feel it only right to cut this team a little slack.
It may be that in a couple of days things will have settled and things will flow a little better. I really hope this happens as I know how much this project means to those involved. However, at the moment, I really could not recommend that anyone go along.