Count Vincentio (Mark Rylance), undergoing a mid life crisis, leaves the morally lax city of Vienna to find a purpose to life.
He devolves his power to his cousin, the misnamed and puritanical Angelo (Liam Brennan), who asserts his new authority by invoking old dormant laws against adultery and prostitution. So Claudio (Alex Hassell) must die for making his fiancee Juliet pregnant. Shakespeare explores the challenge of mercy through the appeal of Claudio's sister, the pious Isabella, who pleads for his life, to Angelo who falls for her in spite of himself.
As ever the Globe company reveals the joy of Shakespeare's language and the crowd loves the knowing remarks and teasing asides. A series of elaborate deceits and substitutions frame the eternal moral dilemma of true justice and moral integrity in more elegant terms than today's tabloid headlines. In this pacy production a host of comic characters of bawds, prostitutes and brothel keepers reminds us we are really among the Bankside stews. The musical interludes carry the plot to a conclusion where each character seems to have what is deserved rather than desired.