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Dido, Queen of Carthage at Rose Theatre Bankside

Alice Dickerson

Christopher Marlowe's first play is also his weakest; and this is, unfortunately, reflected in the Rose's production.

Christopher Marlowe's body of work will forever be compared to that of his contemporary William Shakespeare, and will inevitably emerge as second best. Similarly, when Marlowe's play Dido, Queen of Carthage is compared to the rest of his creations, Dido suffers by comparison.

It is an ambitious play, which seeks to bring to life a piece of classic Greek mythology; a myth which may have been more familiar to an Elizabethan audience than it is today. Yet even then, following the complex intertwined lives of the featured Gods and mortals would have been extremely challenging. Today, it is almost impossible.

Unfortunately, this confusion is not mitigated but is instead translated into the Rose Theatre's production of Dido. Given the play's unfamiliarity and complexity, very clear characterisation is demanded. A familiar trait of the Rose's productions to have actors play multiple roles therefore becomes a weakness. The play switches between watching Gods in heaven, to mortals on Earth, and then to Gods disguised as mortals. Yet in this production, some actors play both deity and human, leaving one unsure whether this was intentional or not. One of the Rose's strengths is also not used to its full potential; the space itself. For a play which describes such epic happenings, the expanse of the theatre is rarely utilised.

Fundamentally though, this is a weak play which would not now be staged if it was not for its famous author. Dido has much comic potential, particularly as Cupid seeks to induce love and cause mischief. Yet the play takes an extremely long time to reach its first joke and, even after that, they remain thin on the ground; Shakespeare's tragedies contain more laughs.

House on the Hill's ambition to revive Marlow's overlooked play should be applauded. Yet this play would have struggled in even the most adept hands.

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