There will be blood...
Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon Until Dec 1, 3hrs 20mins
Christopher Marlowe’s play was the first major hit of the Elizabethan stage, a gory two-part drama about an avaricious, brutal tyrant set on conquering the world; very Game Of Thrones in its epic sweep and gleeful cruelty, but without the actual battles.
But these days, just listening to three hours of blokey, bragging reports of sacked cities and merciless massacres isn’t thrilling.
Michael Boyd’s strippedback production starts at an admirable clip, but editing together parts one and two means the came-sawconquered scene structure becomes numbingly repetitive. For all the vigour of the RSC cast, it’s a slog.
Boyd takes a pleasingly theatrical approach to the violence and the -strong character list, however: while there are flying severed tongues, mostly stage blood is daubed on actors’ bodies by paintbrush. They often reanimate immediately – more fleshy fodder for Tamburlaine’s next round of slaughter.
Jude Owusu makes Tamburlaine a charismatically wicked force, with a sexy, smirking, swagger of self-belief and a silver-tongued way with poetic verse that takes him from shepherd to global leader who believes he can take on God.
He remains unrepentant to the last – an accurate study in violent ambition perhaps, but one that never really goes anywhere.