Mystery continues to shroud Elizabethan poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe’s life and death, providing Peter B. Hodges with a sizable amount of drama and intrigue to base this hugely entertaining comedy production of Marlowe’s Fate upon, writes Carolyn Hart Taylor.
Records state Marlowe met a violent and bloody death stabbed in a Deptford inn in 1593, aged just 29. Kicking off the play’s action in the Mistress Bull’s House, the Deptford boarding house provides the ideal platform for several characters’ plotting and scheming; one being agent Robert Poley (Robert Vemon), employed by the Privy Council during the reign of Elizabeth 1 to hatch a plot faking Marlowe’s death. Poley’s darkly ominous presence alerts us to the seriousness of this business.
Providing a perfect cover for Marlowe’s creative outpourings is none other than the Bard himself. Unable to spell his own name, young, naive Will’m Shaxper, (Lewis Allcock) is the ideal contender to hide Marlowe’s literary works behind.
Act II introduces a boxing match with puppets of Marlowe and Shakespeare thrashing out the literary works’ true authorship. Symbolically, facts and theory are woven into the courtroom boxing drama. Literary titles such as Tamburlaine, Merchant of Venice and Dr Faustus are traded blow by blow in an attempt to persuade audiences of the true genius behind the poetic writings. The audience-jury is left to make their own minds up and the likelihood of Marlowe’s Fate.
Actors’ use of modern language is welcome considering the extent of detail included in the dialogue, and with much being made of the dominance of the English language we are able to see how advantageous it is to these writers in creating a truth we’ve interpreted as historical fact, that alone is the great thing about plays like Marlowe’s Fate, it’s the stuff of life providing the fuel.
PK Taylor plays a convincing role of Ingram Frizer, Marlowe’s supposed murderer, now, though, aiding in his assumed escape.
A play that revisits an intriguing moment in Elizabethan history, putting forth an alternative version of Christopher Marlowe’s situation whilst delivering it through expert acting and wonderful bawdy humour.