Marlowe's Classic echoes through the centuries- from 1593 to 1953- and lands resoundingly into the 21st Century
After watching Derek Jarman's version of Edward II, I was intrigued by both the play and the King upon which the film is based. It struck me that there was a history play, written around 1593, that deals with politics and sexuality in such a modern way. Many classical plays illustrate how little the human personality has changed over hundreds of years, but few seemed to be so unapologetic. Your sympathies may first be with Mortimer Jr. as Edward seems to ignore his duties in favor of “frolicking” with Gaveston, but then they might shift when you realize that Mortimer uses this homosexual relationship as means to grab power. Consider our recent elections, where the “specter” of Gay Marriage was a rallying cry for voting for a particular party, and once again we see that for all our civilization, we still seemed to be tied to our personalities and ruled by fear.
Some years ago after having drinks with an actor friend , he reminded me of Marlowe's play. We had a lively discussion about the modern attitude and wondered if Edward's character was an accurate rendering. After re-reading, it was on a train ride to the East Bay where I realized how appropriate it was to set this play during the McCarthy era. It seemed Mortimer's witch hunt had little to do with the King and Gaveston's relationship, or "care of his country," but more to do with fear tactics, hubris, and an orchestrated coup. I delved into Harold Hutchinson's biography of Edward II, and my suspicions of character assassination were confirmed. Every encyclopedic passage that mentioned Edward II and his reign summed his life as the worst King England ever had, and inferred that his homosexuality was to blame. Indeed, Sir Richard Baker, in his Chronicle of the Kings of England, makes the outrageous statement: "His great unfortunateness was in his greatest blessing; for of four sons which he had by his Queen Eleanor, three of them died in his own lifetime, who were worthy to have outlived him; and the fourth outlived him, who was worthy never to have been born." Mr. Hutchinson's biography is more practical and explains that the King may not have been the strongest, but certainly he wasn't the fey, gay stereotype, illustrated in films such as Braveheart, nor completely inept, having inherited most of England's woes from his father.
Using Marlowe's text and influenced by Mr. Hutchinson's biography and David K. Johnson's The Lavender Scare , this production makes a parallel with the Communist witch-hunt of the McCarthy Era, where U.S. political barons strove to exile the “perverts” and “security risks” of the state department, ultimately beginning the 2 nd Red Scare and subsequent blacklisting in Hollywood. -Demetrius Martin, Director
Edward II runs Thursdays through Saturdays, from February 1 to February 24, 2007. All shows start at 8 PM, with one Saturday matinee on the 24th at 2PM. All performances will be at the EXIT-on-Taylor theater, 277 Taylor Street, San Francisco.