Though it's about judgment, Measure for Measure serves up questions rather than ladling out prescriptions. Why certain decisions are made in the play is explored through English Touring Theatre's education work, geared to A-level English and theatre studies students.
Designer Conor Murphy places Michael Gordon's production on an abstract, skeletal set. It reflects, says head of education Fiona Lesley, a play that presents a series of actions, its characters defined by their decisions of the moment.
English students at Birmingham's Cadbury College appreciated being taken, during a workshop, on an imaginative journey, building mental pictures of various scenes.
The play is given on a bare stage in simple costumes; the education sessions explore the character relationships such a staging emphasises.
Students direct workshop leaders Sue Harding and Martin Heaney through lsabella's first departure from Angelo. Who looks at, or away from, whom? Who moves, or stops, when? Or students play Angelo giving the anxious Provost confirmation Claudio must die, showing the pair as friends, then with either as superior. It seems impossible the Provost should have higher status - till someone suggests he assumes momentary moral superiority over an Angelo whose decision he cannot respect. This student idea hits at the heart of the play: character created by the instant choices demanded when feeling and thought are separated.
And it is not just about individuals, but how they fit into society. As the moral swamp steams in Vienna's streets, the main characters are shut away, the Duke in supposed exile, Angelo in his self-suppressing puritanical code, Isabella getting herself to a nunnery, even Claudio self-absorbed in prison. The production is cool, at times undercooked; the workshops bring the play's inner life to the boil.
Worthing, October 21-25, Buxton, October 28-November 1, Darlington, November 4-8, Dartford, November 11-15. Details of education programme: Fiona Lesley 01270 501800