Tamburlaine, Arcola Theatre

Stylistically revolutionary as it was when first written, Marlowe’s Tamburlaine is still a clumsy brute of a play (not unlike Shakespeare’s first tragedy, Titus Andronicus) that has plenty of challenges when it comes to its staging. But the messy and violent journey from common thief to emperor includes some extraordinary moments that appealed to wider audiences in a way that went on to shape Shakespeare and his other contemporaries. There are shadows of the Richard III, Mark Anthony and Henry VI that are yet to come, and delightful to behold in this rarely staged play. Director Ng Choon Ping trims a lot of the excess script and gives it a clean, quick pace but in doing so, the story loses rigour. In an attempt to it tidy up, the story is flattened to a relentless quest with little light and shade.

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