English: Pre-U Students Weigh-Up ‘Measure for Measure’


As last half-term drew to a close, English students dashed up to the Young Vic to catch a very provocative production of Shakespeare’s famous ‘problem play’ Measure for Measure.

To every literature student, a trip to the theatre provides a wondrous opportunity to see the words on the pages of our most cherished texts spring to life, and presents an invitation to a fresh interpretation of the dramatic material.

Needless to say, the Upper Sixth Pre-U English Literature trip to see Shakespeare’s infamous and complex problem play ‘Measure for Measure’, was no exception.


After an arduous journey involving multiple games of charades and one too many chick flicks, we found ourselves in Waterloo soaking up The Young Vic’s alternative ambiance. This venue, with its slightly subterranean feeling, seemed perfect for a play so steeped in the seedy side of Shakespeare’s London.

As expected, this performance of ‘Measure for Measure’ was not going to be a traditional one.

Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins, the performance succeeded in portraying the timelessness of Shakespeare’s brilliance through ingenious application of contemporary settings and props, which served to project on stage this play’s thought-provoking collision of crime, divine mercy and punitive justice – the fundamental themes of the piece.


That said, any theatre-goers of a slightly conservative nature might be a little shocked to see the curtain raise on a few hundred nude mannequins being thrown around on stage!

Hill-Gibbins managed to capture the comedic and ironic elements that accompany the principle issues posed by the play. A particular point of intrigue was the use of a live video camera to capture the supposedly secret nature of several key scenes, thus offering the view of a surveillance state, further emphasising the continuing relevance of Shakespeare’s works, even today.

Fans of George Orwell’s 1984 would have nodded approvingly of this shrewd directorial move.


The play posed many questions about the nature of justice, leadership and responsibility, and seeing the play live is invaluable for any student of Shakespeare. This pilgrimage helped us to build on our burgeoning knowledge, whilst providing us with an entertaining and enjoyable, evening.

It will undoubtedly serve invaluable as we continue our study of this fascinating, troublesome and compelling play this half-term!


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