Trou­bling tale of sex and power gained new mean­ing from Ka­vanaugh case, says Atwell

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - - News - Robert Dex Arts Cor­re­spon­dent

MEA­SURE For Mea­sure star Hay­ley Atwell said Shake­speare’s tale of sex and power was given “new mean­ing” by the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing US judge Brett Ka­vanaugh.

The first half of the play re­volves around her char­ac­ter, Isa­bella — a young woman be­ing pres­sured to give up her vir­gin­ity to the pow­er­ful, preda­tory politi­cian An­gelo, played by Jack Low­den.

Atwell said the par­al­lels with the case of Ka­vanaugh, who has just been voted onto the US Supreme Court de­spite a deeply di­vi­sive pub­lic hear­ing where he was ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault when he was a teenager, were “quite re­mark­able and purely co­in­ci­den­tal”.

She said :“While we were in tech be­fore any pre­views we had the Ka­vanaugh case go­ing on. That gave new mean­ing to be­ing not be­lieved in a le­gal sys­tem.”

The Don­mar Ware­house pro­duc­tion, di­rected by Josie Rourke, re­verses Atwell and Low­den’s roles for t he sec­ond half, which sees the ac­tress play the part of the abuse rasher pow­er­ful mod­ern woman takes ad­van­tage of him.

Atwell said: “Do­ing it this way is an in­vi­ta­tion to the au­di­ence to par­tic­i­pate in a con­ver­sa­tion about what it makes them think or feel when they hear those words said by a woman, and is it worse or is it the same — and what that does to our own prej­u­dices?”

Low­den said swap­ping the roles led to some of the night’s “most ex­cit­ing mo­ments”.

He said: “Hay­ley and I both get our turn to hit the line‘ to whom should I com­plain… who would be­lieve me?’ I think obvi- ously in the cur­rent cli­mate that has huge sig­nif­i­cance when Hay­ley hits that line.

“And then when I hit that

line in the part of the abused of ‘ who would be­lieve me?’ I think that makes the au­di­ence think ,‘ Oh yeah, who would be­lieve you if am an who is abused ac­cuses a woman in power’, and that’ s what the play is there to do.”

Rourke, who is leav­ing the Don­mar next year af­ter eight years as artis­tic di­rec­tor, praised the “in­fin­itely flex­i­ble” ac­tors who were asked to play both parts i n what s he de­scribed as an “in­sanely trou­bling” play.

She said: “I think the Don­mar has al­ways been a great space in which to make beauty ap­pear but also the great­est space to pose dif­fi­cult ques­tions.”

“Flex­i­ble ac­tors”: Hay­ley Atwell and Jack Low­den at The Hospi­tal Club.

Left, Atwell as Isa­bella, with Ni­cholas Burns as the Duke

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