I recently got the opportunity to go and see a production of Christopher Marlowe’s epic play ‘Tamburlaine’, adapted and performed by the Yellow Earth theatre company. It was performed at the character-filled Old Rep theatre in Birmingham. This is a very brief review I wrote about the piece.
I had no idea what to expect from Ng Choon Ping’s reimagining of Christopher Marlowe’s play, ‘Tamburlaine’. I was worried that it had the potential to be a dry, dusty old history play, I was wrong.
The whole cast were brilliant, and they impressively played at least three roles each. This was initially confusing but eventually the projections outlining where we were and who the main ruler was in that scene combined with subtle costume changes made the shifts between characters easily identifiable. The stage was sparse but this heightened the acting, and any discomfort created was unescapable. However, Joji Hirota’s energetic taiko drumming added atmosphere and depth to the simple set. Lourdes Faberes played Tamburlaine excellently, she was commanding and wholly unpredictable, and Tamburlaine’s soliloquies (that have a danger of being dull) were captivating. The final lines of the play were claimed, like everything else in the play, by Tamburlaine. The soliloquy to his sons was a particular highlight, and in the end, Tamburlaine the great became almost human.
It was undeniably impressive that such a small cast took on such a renowned and complicated play. The production was outside of the box and a little rough around the edges, becoming especially abstract and dark after the interval. But it was a modern and refreshing change to the usual Shakespearean offering of Elizabethan drama.
It was an interesting choice to have an almost all-female cast (besides one male), and especially given the context of Marlowe’s intended audience. Women were not allowed to act or feature on Elizabethan stages, and female parts would be played by boys. It was a truly modern and empowering choice to cast a woman as Tamburlaine. A move that I felt slightly skeptical about, but as I have mentioned, Faberes played Tamburlaine brilliantly, she emphasized his cold and resolute nature towards violence, murder, domination, and war.