Order information for your Shopping Cart

PARKING PARTNERS

What did you think of Measure for Measure?

MEASURE FOR MEASURE by Shakespeare, , Writer - William Shakespeare, Director - Declan Donnellan, Designer - Nick Ormerod, Lighting - Sergei Skornetsky, Paris, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson/

Thank you for joining us for Cheek by Jowl and Pushkin Theatre’s production of Measure for Measure.

While in preparations to bring this piece to Boston, the company emphasized the fact that it was made to live outside any particular government or time frame. Is this Russia? Is this now? They leave these questions to us.

Since there are as many interpretations of this play as there are people who see it – we would love to know yours. Leave your thoughts in the comments and read what other audience members saw.

Want to know more? Check out our blog for character analysis, a piece about translation, and the experience of this play in the time of #metoo.

20 Comments

  1. Alan LevitanOctober 26, 2018 at 9:50 am

    I came to this production with trepidation, since I have taught Measure for Measure (one of my three favorite Shakespeare plays) for forty years and never expected that I could be moved by a performance in Russian. Short-sighted me! It was glorious, inventive without ever doing an injustice to the play’s text or meaning, and with a cast of actors whose expressive brilliance has me thinking, this morning, that what I heard last night was in English!

    The physicality of the actors was particularly effective—I have rarely seen this level of bodily motion in a Shakespeare production. And touches of novel interpretation were continually striking; for example, when Claudio is unhooded at the end, one expects Isabella to react with joy (as she does) but one does not expect her to be rebuffed by her brother, as he refuses to welcome her into his arms because he cannot forgive her for having been willing to let him die. The several uses of dance in this production were also striking and, in the denouement, particularly moving. Even the surreal touch of Claudio plucking on the double bass was unexpectedly haunting rather than snicker- or laugh-provoking. The direction, throughout, was riveting. This was, all in all, one of the greatest productions of a Shakespeare play that I have ever seen (and I’ve seen hundreds; I’m 83 years old).

    Reply
    • Thank you for your thorough review! Of course I am glad you enjoyed it, but even more delighted you shared your experience with us. Hope to see you at the theater again soon. (You might particularly enjoy American Moor if you want another rumble with Shakespeare!)

      Reply
  2. My son is deaf. For decades, captioning has been a part of my life. Using captions, however, was never a physically painful experience until I tried to access the captions for this production. In fact, the caption screen was so high it not only made one ache, it also served to totally separate readers from the actors on the stage so far below. Appropriately designed and utilized, captions provide access. These served to disconnect.

    Reply
    • You are not alone with this criticism. Read on and you will find that others struggled as well. This design element is folded into the production on this US tour. The company elected to preserve the sight lines of the design and aimed to create such a magnetic and embodied performance that people would eventually let go of the titles and just watch the stage. This worked for many people, as you will see a bit here, but others seated close in worked hard as, you did to incorporate them. I am particularly dismayed your son was dependent on them and struggled as a result. Please feel free to ask to be reseated back in the house, or upstairs, when you come and there are subtitles employed. We try to alert everyone to the presence of surtitles, and if you did not get that courtesy I apologize. Please let me know the next time you and your son will be with us and I will see if we can make it up to you!

      Reply
  3. John AndradeOctober 27, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Even though it was in Russian and subtitled I either didn’t notice I was reading subtitles or did read them at all but given that the actors used a lot of body language the plot was easy to follow and the play itself was funny this was the second play I seen at one of the Arts Emerson venue the first being Hamnet and Measure for Measure. Hamnet being the show that made be buy a pick six show package can’t wait till I have to see the other shows

    Reply
    • Welcome to the conversation, John! ArtsEmerson is a journey – it takes more than one or two shows to find its contours, so I am glad you dove in! There are also dialogues, and play reading clubs, and film and more around here. Enjoy!

      Reply
  4. Karen MooreOctober 28, 2018 at 9:48 am

    I braved the weather yesterday to attend this production of Measure for Measure out of curiosity but I feared I would miss Shakespeare’s language. However, the actors were so expressive, so physical that I nearly forgot they were speaking Russian. It probably helped that I at least knew the play having read it and seen it performed in the past. Having the entire cast as a “Chorus” on stage at all times, moving and reacting, mimicking the action, and managing scene changes was a truly effective narrative enhancement. And the dance interludes were great. Just excellent!

    Reply
    • I’m so glad to read this, Karen. This mirrors the experience of many, many in the audience. A common comment following the show was that people had gotten so pulled in they lost track that it was not in English. As I wrote above, this was the company’s aim. We ran a series of Play Reading Book Clubs around this play, where groups gathered to read the play together and discuss it with a teaching artist, and those clubs then got together at the theater with members of the creative team. If that sort of experience appeals to you, keep an eye out for the next ones. It’s a bit more of a time investment but it’s a rich, rich ride with the work we’re putting on stage. And you meet a lot of people you wouldn’t otherwise share the experience with. Hope to see you at the theater again, soon!

      Reply
  5. Margaret McKennaOctober 28, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    I very much appreciate the comments above, but my experience was very different. The surtitles were so high above the stage that I had to choose between reading them and looking at the actors perform. And then, they moved so fast I couldn’t even finish reading before the next sentence came up. I don’t know if Russian is a more succinct language…but it was very very frustrating. Spoiled the production.

    Reply
  6. My parents went to this spectacle yesterday . It didn’t like them. They didn’t understand the main idea.

    Reply
  7. Joyce DevlinOctober 29, 2018 at 10:07 am

    This is a brilliantly directions production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Be sure to see it.

    Reply
  8. Snezhana ValenskayaOctober 29, 2018 at 10:27 am

    This was a well-staged performance with the tremendously glorious acting skills of actors. As Russian is my native language, I did not need to read subtitles, but found myself reading them from time to time for the sake of reading Shakespeare. Should there be no words at all, I would still enjoy the play, the actors, their body language and the topic that still leaves even it is the 21st century. Thank you for bringing this play to Boston! Will be waiting for more.

    Reply
  9. Helen SchwartzOctober 29, 2018 at 10:30 am

    I haven’t seen Pushkin’s theater in almost 35 years. I am from Moscow and I love theater. The “Measure for Measure production”, that I saw yesterday was incredible. Inventive, bald, rhythmiclly precise and very emotional. Thank you. I can only imagine, how difficult it is to perform for a non-Russian speking audience and anticipate a familial connection. Огромное Спасибо!

    Reply
  10. Mark ChimskyOctober 29, 2018 at 10:32 am

    A magical, thought-provoking, beautifully directed and performed production of “Measure for Measure.” So wonderful to see such a richly reimagined new version of this endlessly intriguing play! And the original score was haunting and enriched the theatrical experience. My deep thanks to the company and to ArtsEmerson!

    Reply
  11. Russian is my native language, and I read the play in both languages: English and Russian – before I went to see the play. I love it, love the contemporary (rather than traditional Shakespearian) setting… I never stop wondering how fresh Shakespeare always is. And this association to our time was presented brilliantly. Need to add one thing – the acoustic is bad at Emerson, so in some scenes it was hard to hear actors talking without microphones – I was sitting in the second row of the orchestra (was glad that I read the play beforehand).

    Reply
  12. Not having read Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure since college, I had the pleasure of re-reading it just before attending this production. Once again, the Bard’s language, and even his clever naming of the characters, are both incisive and poetic. Yes, the surtitles were hard to read from row J in the orchestra, so I was happy to be familiar with the
    language. The relevance of the themes in this production is chilling, given that the play was written about 400 years ago. The blocking, choreography and physicality of this performance also did much to ease the surtitle issue. Although the Duke is hardly a perfect leader, he showed far more compassion than Angelo whose behavior was just too reminiscent of our current “leader.” As I was leaving the theatre, I thought, “Yes, we need justice with compassion, laws that respect human nature, and governments of, by, and for ALL people…and yes, women are people too!”

    Reply
  13. Thank you all for sharing your responses here. As these comments show, there is always a range of experience with everything we do. While we hope to succeed more often than we frustrate, we’re willing to risk it in order to share the variety of cultures, styles, stories, and forms that we do each season. Our principal aim at ArtsEmerson is to create connection across our differences, which we try to do by putting the world on stage and inviting the glorious diversity of the city into the audience. We will continue to share Russian work, in Russian, as it speaks the language of tens of thousands of Bostonians. Later in the year, we will hear the Khmer language of our thousands of Cambodian neighbors spoken from the stage, and To The Source will be sung in Polish. Our seasons will always have some percentage of work that’s not in English, in fact, just as we often encounter languages other than English in our daily lives in this city. When you see a show that will not be in English, be sure to ask the box office about best seating for incorporating the surtitles if the show is not in a language you speak. Surtitles, and their placement, are generally an element of set design and each company makes different choices about how to incorporate them. We can help you have a peak experience of the performance, and often we offer opportunities to read the play in a group, with a trained facilitator, before you visit. So, stay with us, choose your own adventures, and please keep letting us know what you experienced when you come!

    David Dower David Howse
    Artistic Director Executive Director

    Reply
  14. William GraingeOctober 31, 2018 at 9:21 am

    There was a great deal of “business” in the production which did nothing to explicate the play, was distracting and was not that interesting in itself. Why is Claudio playing a bass violin in prison? Why is the whole cast running about the stage constantly? What happened to the rape scene? It seemed like the crux of the action somehow disappeared. Maybe it was lost in translation. In addition I did not see the connection to Putin’s Russia, which was headlined in the promotional material.

    Reply
    • As I have written above, there is always a range of experiences and yours is welcome as well. Thank you for sharing it.

      If you let the staging work more as gesture and the language more as poetry, I wonder if you might find some space for resolving some of the questions you raise here on your own? For instance, the bass accompanies the waltz that follows his imprisonment and that evolves into the song that Shakespeare placed there in the text. The city is waltzing. He’s plucking the bass line alone in his cell. It may not satisfy on any literal level, but there’s a relationship to the event there, it seems. As for the cast moving en masse about the stage, I personally found it to be a very effective way to convey the sense (at the outset) of the Duke having no escape from his subjects– no matter where he went, there they were. Wordlessly. I felt I understood his decision to eschew his role, as a result. And then, having established that language in the staging of the city in motion and swirling around the action, at times eavesdropping on it, the director took it a step further by having the company serve to wipe scenes away and deliver the next seamlessly, each scene dissolving into the crowd and emerging from the crowd. As for the critique of Putin’s Russia, you may have more of a sense of what you were looking for there. The quote you are referencing was actually pulled from a review from a Russian paper written by a reviewer who found that critique there in the same way that Boston reviewers saw Kavanaugh/Ford in it. When this piece was first staged in Russia, Putin had recently imprisoned the members of Pussy Riot. Whether Putin’s Russia or Trump’s America, though, the abuse of power by men and the efforts of women to be heard and have agency over their lives and bodies seems very much of the moment.

      Reply
  15. Barbara SebekNovember 7, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    I’ve been a follower of Cheek By Jowl since seeing their Much Ado in London in 1998. I’d heard about this particular collaborative production with Pushkin Theatre from friends in the UK when it was first put on there, and was thrilled to have the chance to see it in the U.S. We flew in from Colorado for the weekend just for this purpose! Thank you, ArtsEmerson, for bringing this world-class production to this beautiful space. I’m very familiar with this play as a teacher and scholar: this production brought a host of new insights and moved me to tears–and not only because of the uncanny topicality of the play’s depiction of corruption and sexual harassment. The artistic director’s remarks in the program about this are spot-on! Rather than a slick behind-the-scenes orchestrator/puppet-master while incognito as the friar, fascinating sense of the Duke-as-Friar as bumbling and never fully in control of what’s unfolding until that final scene.

    Reply

Your email address will not be published.