Performance history

  • 1884

    1884 - Stratford debut
    This was probably the first time that Measure for Measure was performed in Stratford-upon-Avon.

    The production, directed by Bernard Charles, was staged in the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, just five years after it first opened.

    The Stratford Herald wrote: 'The play is not often produced on account of the indelicacy of some of the associations, but only a judicious hand is required to tone down that which jars on the sensitive ear' (2 May 1884).

    Image: Advertisement from the Redditch Indicator 12 April 1884.

  • 1950

    1950 - Peter Brook
    Directed by Peter Brook, this Measure for Measure was performed in Stratford-upon-Avon at the New Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.

    The theatre opened in 1932, designed by Elisabeth Scott and this production saw its fourth hosting of the play – with previous incarnations in 1940, 1946 and 1947.

    The Birmingham Post designated it 'one of the most effective productions that Mr Brook has so far achieved' (10 March 1950).

    Photograph: Act I, Scene v, with John Gielgud as Angelo and Barbara Jefford as Isabella. Photographer Angus McBean, copyright RSC.

  • 1962

    1962 - Lacking height
    Records show this to be the only production of Measure for Measure performed in Stratford-upon-Avon in the swinging sixties.

    The Liverpool Post reported: 'Judi Dench lacks the height for the part but makes up for it by her fine voice' (11 April 1962).

    Music was by Guy Woolfenden and represented one of his very first Royal Shakespeare Company productions, after which he would go on to write around 150 scores for the organisation.

    John Blatchley directed the production, with design and lighting by John Bury.

    Tom Fleming (Vincentio), Judi Dench (Isabella), Marius Goring (Angelo), Ian Richardson (Lucio), Clive Swift (Pompey), Edmond Bennett (Elbow), Ian Holm (Claudio), Yvonne Bonnamy (Mariana), Patricia Brake (Juliet), Paul Hardwick (Provost), Clifford Rose (Froth), Peter Jeffrey (Escalus), Tony Church (Barnadine).

    Photograph: Act IV, Scene iii, with Tom Fleming as the Duke and Judi Dench as Isabella. Copyright Gordon Goode.

  • 1970

    1970 - Spare
    A minimalist set and props characterised John Barton's landmark 1970 production of Measure for Measure, which The Times' Irving Wardle called 'spare, intelligent and wary' (2 April 1970).

    Writing in Daily Telegraph, John Barber noted: 'It is remarkable for its refusal to cuddle up to the nice characters or to pretend that the nasty ones are bad all through' (2 April 1970).

    The groundbreaking moment in Barton's production was his innovative final scene, in which Isabella, played by Estelle Kohler, neither rejected nor accepted the Duke's proposal, but instead stared silently into the audience.

    Cast and creative
    Timothy O'Brien (design); John Bradley (lighting)

    Sebastian Shaw (Vincentio), Estelle Kohler (Isabella), Ian Richardson (Angelo), Terrence Hardiman (Lucio), John Kane (Pompey), Trader Faulkner (Elbow), Ben Kingsley (Claudio), Sara Kestelman (Mariana), Mary Rutherford (Juliet), William Russell (Provost), Peter Egan (Froth), Patrick Barr (Escalus), David Waller (Barnadine)

    Photograph: Act I, Scene ii showing (from left to right) Terrence Hardiman – Lucio, William Russell – Provost, Ben Kingsley – Claudio. Photographer Reg Wilson, copyright RSC.

  • 1974

    1974 - Bawdy and raucous
    Set in the red light district of Vienna and directed by Keith Hack, this production was strongly influenced by the controversial dramatist Edward Bond, even carrying a programme note penned by him.

    The Guardian's Michael Billington dismissed the show as 'a half-Measure' (5 September 1974). The Oxford Mail described it as 'a bawdy, raucous cartoon punctuated by jibes, whistles and backstreet vulgarity with it all hanging out' (5 September 1974).

    With a lavish set and costumes designed by Maria Björnson, the production also featured Richard Griffiths as Abhorson.

    Lighting was by John Bradley and music by Stephen Oliver.

    Barrie Ingham (Vincentio), Francesca Annis (Isabella), Michael Pennington (Angelo), Barry Stanton (Lucio), James Booth (Pompey), Ian McDiarmid (Elbow), Malcolm Tierney (Claudio), Gay Hamilton (Mariana), Debbie Bowen (Juliet), Jeffery Kissoon (Provost), David Waller (Escalus)

    Photograph: Act V, Scene I, with Francesca Annis as Isabella and Gay Hamilton as Mariana. Copyright Nobby Clark.

  • 1978

    1978 - Appearance and reality
    Directed by Barry Kyle, this production featured a black box set with several doors. The cast included Juliet Stevenson and Ruby Wax as nuns and whores, John Nettles as Lucio and Richard Griffiths as Pompey.

    Writing in the Guardian, Michael Billington commented: 'We are constantly reminded of the play's prison background with faces of the Hogarthian whores peering through grilles at the antics of their supposed moral superiors... Kyle treats the play not only as a parable about justice but an essay on appearance and reality.'

    Cast and creatives
    Christopher Morley (design); Brian Harris (lighting); James Walker (music)

    Michael Pennington (Vincentio), Paola Dionisotti/Sinéad Cusack (Isabella), Jonathan Pryce/David Suchet (Angelo), John Nettles (Lucio), Richard Griffiths (Pompey), Geoffrey Freshwater (Elbow), Allan Hendrick (Claudio), Marjorie Bland/Natasha Parry (Mariana), Sheridan Fitzgerald (Juliet), Darlene Johnson (Mistress Overdone), Donald Douglas (Provost), Ian Reddington (Froth), Raymond Westwell (Escalus), Conrad Asquith (Barnadine), Diana Berriman (Francisca), Dennis Edwards (Abhorson), Juliet Stevenson (Whore), Ruby Wax (Whore)

    Photograph: Michael Pennington – Duke, Conrad Asquith – Barnardine. Copyright: photographer.

  • 1983 - the set

    1983 - Underworld grotesques
    With a striking set designed by Bob Crowley, the 1983 production was directed by Adrian Noble, later to become the RSC's artistic director (1991-2003).

    Irving Wardle wrote in The Times: 'Adrian Noble's stage swarms with sober state officials in full-skirted coats and jet black wigs, exotically plumed fops and underworld grotesques whose diseases seem to have eaten into their costumes' (5 October 1983).

    Photograph from Joe Cocks Studio Collection, copyright Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust.

  • 1983 - the cast

    1983 - cast and creatives

    Bob Crowley (design); Robert Bryan (lighting); Ilona Sekacz (music)

    Daniel Massey (Vincentio), Juliet Stevenson (Isabella), David Schofield (Angelo), Richard O'Callaghan (Lucio), Anthony O'Donnell (Pompey), Trevor Peacock (Elbow), John Nolan (Claudio), Emma Watson (Mariana), Sarah Berger/Tilda Swinton (Juliet), Peggy Mount (Mistress Overdone), Oliver Ford Davies (Provost), Raymond Platt (Froth), Joseph O'Conor (Escalus), Stanley Dawson (Varrius), Campbell Morrison (Barnadine), Caroline Harris (Francisca), Griffith Jones (Abhorson), David Killick (A Justice)

    Photograph: David Schofield as Angelo and Juliet Stevenson as Isabella. Copyright Stephen Macmillan.

  • 1994

    1994 - Measure for the 1990s
    Nineties culture and politics in all its glory was reflected in this year's production, directed by Steven Pimlott, with Toby Stephens as Claudio.

    With leopard-skin miniskirts, prison wardens armed with batons, and burping and beer-swilling lager louts, the Birmingham Post compared the atmosphere created by the show to a rugby club on a Friday night.

    The Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer wrote: 'The Duke is a kind of John Major, launching a doomed attempt to revive his 'Back to Basics' campaign' (22 October 1994).

    Cast and creatives
    Ashley Martin-Davis (design); Brian Harris (lighting); Jason Carr (music)

    Michael Feast (Vincentio), Stella Gonet (Isabella), Alex Jennings (Angelo), Barry Lynch (Lucio), Derek Griffiths/Clive Rowe (Pompey), Bille Brown/Simon Dormandy (Elbow), Toby Stephens (Claudio), Tanya Moodie (Mariana), Caroline Blakiston (Mistress Overdone), David Killick (Provost), Alfred Burke (Escalus), Liam O'Callaghan (Barnadine), Griffith Jones (Abhorson)

    Michael Feast (Vincentio), Stella Gonet (Isabella), Alex Jennings (Angelo), Barry Lynch (Lucio), Derek Griffiths/Clive Rowe (Pompey), Bille Brown/Simon Dormandy (Elbow), Toby Stephens (Claudio), Tanya Moodie (Mariana), Caroline Blakiston (Mistress Overdone), David Killick (Provost), Alfred Burke (Escalus), Liam O'Callaghan (Barnadine), Griffith Jones (Abhorson)

    Photograph: Production design by Ashley Martin-Davies. Copyright Ivan Kyncl.

  • 2006

    2006 - The Complete Works
    Measure for Measure was last performed in Stratford-upon-Avon in September as part of the Complete Works Festival. The production was directed by Peter Hall, for Theatre Royal Bath.

    Photograph: Andrea Risborough as Isabella and Ben Turner as Claudio.

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