The Marlowe Society
The Rose Thatre on Bankside
12 August 2009

The Genius and The Rose

Last chance to see The Genius film;
Details of The Rose's Autumn 2009 Season

Any Marlowe enthusiasts who have not yet seen The Genius of Christopher Marlowe film being shown daily at the Rose Theatre on Bankside in London, should take note that its limited run finishes in less than three weeks. Members of the Society who have attended a showing have been very impressed, and so if you find yourself in London before the end of August, please do try and pop along to The Rose one early evening.

The film consists of a wonderful collection of excerpts from Marlowe's plays and poems, performed by a stellar cast of outstandingly talented actors that includes Dame Judi Dench, Joseph Fiennes, Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Ian McKellen and Alan Rickman amongst many others. Entrance costs just £4.50 (under-15's are free) and proceeds will help to raise funds and support for the Rose Theatre Trust, which funds the preservation and presentation of this, the oldest excavated theatre on London's Bankside. The film has been made with the good will of all the actors, which serves to emphasise the importance they and others place on the continued preservation and use of this incredible and unique historical site.

The programme at the bottom of this page lists the passages filmed and the dazzling array of actors involved. When one thinks of the many other speeches or pieces of Marlowe's poetry that might also have been included, it is clear that the film-makers must have had an immensely difficult task making their final selection. One of the criteria used was that the pieces should all demonstrate different aspects of Marlowe's theatrical genius. It is perhaps unfair to pick out any one piece above another, but Alan Rickman's Guise is quite disturbingly memorable, Kevin McNally's prologue to the Jew of Malta is, well, darkly Machiavellian, and Ian McKellen's ill-fated Faustus speech is a suitably fine and dramatic climax.

The actors are all presented in a virtual reality via some clever technical wizardry to show them as if appearing on the stage at the original Rose. The different camera perspectives from different positions in the Elizabethan playhouse provide an illuminating view of how a contemporary crowd might have seen the plays, even if the on-screen joins of reality to virtual backdrop are a little distracting at times.

The presentation is also accompanied by a printed Programme (written by Robert Pennant Jones, and worth the entrance fee alone!) which provides some notes on the production, describes the background and development of the project, outlines the aspects of Marlowe's genius which the different extracts illustrate, and also prints the extracts from Marlowe's works that are used in the film.

The Genius is in fact just one aspect of The Rose Theatre's busy programme for the remainder of 2009, as it begins to put on a diverse range of theatrical and educational events in this unique space. There are no fewer than six productions being staged between now and the end of the year, ranging from Shakespeare, through some new modern plays, to a night of short plays from first-time playwrights. The fascinating film on the history of The Rose can be seen before some of these productions, as well as on other occasions such as the London Open House weekend when it will be combined with a talk on the history of the Rose.

All these events will hopefully serve to raise the profile of this unrivalled historic site, the playhouse most closely associated with Marlowe, and will help The Rose Theatre Trust to continue raising the additional funds needed to excavate the remaining section of the theatre's foundations, which were inaccessible during those few weeks in 1989 when the original excavations took place. Full details of the Rose's 2009 season are now available on a dedicated Rose events page on the Marlowe Society website, which also contains links to information on how to become a Friend of The Rose.


Programme and Cast List for The Genius of Christopher Marlowe
  Play/Poem Speech Role Actor
  Tamburlaine the Great I "If all the pens that ever poets held..." speech read in echo by both actors as the film's prologue. Tamburlaine Judi Dench
Derek Jacobi
1. Hero and Leander The beautiful Leander is described by the poet.   Judi Dench
2. Doctor Faustus Mephistophilis produces Helen of Troy, and Faustus marvels at her beauty. Faustus
Helen of Troy
Anton Lesser
Luke Newberry
3. Dido, Queen of Carthage Dido is enraptured by Aeneas. Queen Dido Frances Barber
4. Edward II Young Spenser advises Baldock how he "must cast the scholar off". Young Spenser Shaun Parkes
5. Edward II Edward's favourite describes how he will indulge the King's pleasures. Gaveston Derek Jacobi
6. Edward II The imprisoned king philosophises on the limits of his power and on being deposed. King Edward Joseph Fiennes
7. The Massacre at Paris The Duke spells out his Machiavellian ambition and methods to the audience. Duke of Guise Alan Rickman
8. The Jew of Malta Machiavel claims Barabas as his disciple in this eloquent prologue to the play. Machiavel Kevin McNally
9. The Jew of Malta Barabas muses on the morality of capitalism. Barabas Henry Goodman
10. Tamburlaine the Great II Tamburlaine's eldest son prefers cards to war. Calyphas
Charlie Cox
Sam Barnett
11. Tamburlaine the Great I Tamburlaine lets the defeated and foolish Mycetes keep his crown. For now. Mycetes Michael Burrell
12. Tamburlaine the Great I The courtier warns of the significance of Tamburlaine's tent colours; the Governor ignores this, and urges the Virgins to plead for mercy. Courtier
Clive Francis
John Shrapnel
Rebecca Night
13. Tamburlaine the Great I Tamburlaine proclaims his exalted position by way of Marlowe's 'high astounding terms'. Tamburlaine Antony Sher
14. Tamburlaine the Great I The captured Empress of Turkey laments her husband Bajazeth's violent and tortured death. Zabina Harriet Walter
15. Doctor Faustus Faustus interrogates Mephistophilis on the fall of Lucifer from Heaven to Hell. Faustus
Anton Lesser
Tobias Menzies
16. Doctor Faustus Faustus, with just one hour to live, desperately tries to hold back time. Faustus Ian McKellen
  The Passionate Shepherd to his Love Dame Judi Dench reads Marlowe's Arcadian love poem as the film's epilogue.   Judi Dench
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