There will be blood...

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - THEATRE -

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.

Holly Wil­liams

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