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Edward II by Christopher Marlowe, adapted by Jessica Dromgoole

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BBC Radio 3, 13 September 2009
 
Christopher Marlowe's tale of illicit love and kingship was here transformed into a meditation on politics, of a king determined to have his cake and eat it, and eventually being destroyed by his avaricious subjects in collusion with Queen Isabella (Anastasia Hille). Edward II (Toby Jones) came across as a callow youth, who enjoyed soliloquizing - and hence monopolizing the listeners' attention - while remaining totally indifferent to the feelings of his subjects, particularly Gaveston (Ryan Watson), whom he regarded as a sexual plaything. This was a dangerous move to make, as it led to Edward becoming more and more isolated. However he could not understand why everyone disliked him so much; like a little child deprived of his favourite toys, he whined about his sufferings at the hands of Dame Fortune.
 
Edward II's principal adversary Mortimer (Patrick Kennedy) seemed equally unsympathetic. Although professing to be concerned with his country's well-being under a weak and self-indulgent ruler, Mortimer proved equally indifferent, particularly when he assumed the reins of power. Consequently the country was riven with petty disputes, most of which were beyond Mortimer's capacity to resolve.
 
Isabella and Gaveston were caught in the midst of this political battle, and reacted in different ways. The Queen's behaviour was determined by expediency; having lost her husband to Gaveston, she decided to look after number one by participating in Mortimer's plot. By contrast one felt sorry for the ineffectual Gaveston - caught up in a web of political intrigue, he paid the ultimate price for loving the King.
 
The production ended violently with the King being put to death by a red-hot poker. This household item had two significances; it could be seen at one level as a horrific punishment for Edward's homosexual leanings. At a deeper level, however, the fact a monarch suffered such indignities showed the extent to which England had been plunged into anarchy as a result of his being deposed. In spite of his shortcomings, he was still God's appointed viceregent on earth. Just what we were meant to think at this point was left deliberately ambigous; should we sympathize with the King, or do we think that he actually deserved his fate? Dromgoole's production refused to answer this question.