Megan Husain interviews Charlotte Vickers, director of Edward II ahead of the show’s run next week.
What drew you towards directing Edward II?
It’s a fun story because it begins in a library and not in a pub. I was sat doing some Marlowe revision in the library, and around the same time I was watching a TV show called The Americans, which is set in 1980s America but is about the Cold War. I was watching that, and reading Edward II and was thinking oh my God this could be really good. I played it out, spoke to a few people about it, and then it just made sense at the playhouse, so it was born.
So a mix of TV and revision…
Haha yes exactly TV and revision.
In what ways did you prepare the cast for tackling the play?
We had a Globe workshop and someone from their Education Department came in to do a workshop with the cast on ways to get to grips with the language and the ways they can play around with it. There are a lot of really long speeches, and that’s the big thing in my head at the moment. It’s quite hard when there’s just one character who just speaks for five minutes, and the challenge is maintaining the audience’s interest for that long. So we looked at loads of different stuff in the Globe workshop like splitting your speech and thinking of it as a conversation between one person and themselves.
Why did you decide to set the play after the fall of the USSR?
Edward II is so fun. And this is something I think is really Marlovian, something that Shakespeare isn’t as interested in. Marlowe just loves having sarcasm. Throughout the play everyone is having these conversations and there is so much that is unsaid. It just really reminded me of Cold War politics, of people peacocking off against each other and loads of bravado. There is so much talk without anyone doing anything and it’s just that real frustration of everyone wanting something to happen that really reminded me of looking at Cold War history.
How have you explored homosexuality and the relationship between Edward and Gaveston in the play?
Obviously if you’re doing something about homosexuality in the 1980s you have to look at the AIDS crisis. Derek Jarman’s film from the early 90s was really heavily inspired by this and he added a scene where Edward and Gaveston joined in Aids protestors. It was great but I think it really manipulates the text, and that’s something that I struggled with. You don’t want to be writing new stuff in to it. So we’ve looked at Gaveston as an activist figure, because he is a lot more politically savvy than Edward, and then it’s mostly costume and that slight aesthetic stuff which is the way we can tie it in without manipulating the text.
I think the other interesting thing is how Edward sees his sexuality himself. He doesn’t really talk specifically about his sexuality at all. Gaveston has loads and loads of sexy scenes where he describes orgies on stage, but Edward doesn’t have any of that, he just talks about love. So one of the big things I’ve talked to Calam (Lynch) about is looking at Edward not even thinking about sexuality. I don’t think he’d label himself as anything.
In what ways do you think the play is relevant to modern day social issues?
So Edward is essentially a politician, and the nobles are essentially politicians, so I think it’s about looking at who our leaders are, how accountable they should be, and how accountable they should be for their private lives as well. I can’t help thinking about pig-gate and David Cameron – it’s that kind of thing, it’s how much do we align the personal lives of our politicians with the public lives that our politicians give us; what we expect our politicians to be like, and how that plays into the representations of them that we get.I also think that there continues to be in politics just a lot of chat and no one actually doing anything, so it plays into that, as well the current big obsession with power and control in general.
Edward II will be at the Oxford Playhouse 25th-28th January