Peter Whelan's new play The School Of Night takes as its narrative mainspring the death of Christopher Marlowe, plaiting it with strands of Elizabethan social and political intrigue. Walter Ralegh (Jack Klaff with an idiosyncratic period/regional accent) sues for readmission to Elizabeth's court, while Marlowe and Thomas Kyd fall under suspicion of atheism and seditious libel from the all-pervasive network of "intelligencers". We also hear dialogues on the nature of writing as Marlowe debates with an incognito Shakespeare the relationship of a writer's intention to his work.
Whelan is a fine writer, and Richard McCabe's camp, sour but passionate Marlowe a treat to behold, but there's simply too much here. Half the evening seems given over to brute exposition, with characters informing each other of developments offstage, the byzantine intrigues of court or questions of religion and succession. It felt written for the specific press-night milieu of Stratford habitués.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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