Infamous outlaw Tamburlaine is the main worry of the King of Persia and rightly so: the King’s own brother plans to overthrow him with the help of the bandit. Tamburlaine has built himself a far-reaching reputation for wanting to rule the East and has gathered a large and dedicated following with his immense charm and eloquent speeches. He gets in deep and deeper in political affairs, and eventually comes for the current and new King, as well as all present Kings of other countries or Lords of influential cities. As Tamburlaine progresses and becomes more powerful, he spirals into the bloody abyss of tyranny. Born a simple shepherd he is now an unstoppable war machine.
The play is a terrible warning about bloodlust and a charismatic political leader gone bad. It addresses the topics of religion, cruelty, morality, egos, fortune and death. As such it is rather longwinded, but Lazarus Theatre Company makes it worth the experience and mixes up the classical text with an original and daring cocktail of highly choreographed body movements, physical expression, dance and music. This production of Tamburlaine is also visually interesting in other respects: light design by Jai Morjaria and costumes by Rachel Dingle are cleverly integrated and add depth and interpretations to the play. It is rare to see a Camden Fringe production where so many details are thought-through to such an extent. For example, core enemies would often wear stuffy suits in contrast to more comfortable sport clothes of the opposition, and as character loyalty and morality changes, so do their clothes. Of course, as is nature of the role, Prince Plockey stands out as Tamburlaine, and confidently manages to control the crowds on stage with conviction and magnetism. Especially noteworthy is also the performance of Kate Austen, who draws the audience in with an enormous stage presence before she even utters her first sentence. This is definitely an actress to watch for the future – the energy she brings to her role is captivating.
Lazarus Theatre Company’s Tamburlaine definitely goes recommended, especially to those that do not want to see just another Shakespeare re-run but explore the works of Marlowe for a change.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent
Tamburlaine the Great is playing at Tristan Bates Theatre 12 September 2015. Click for tickets