'Tamburlaine the Greatmarked the first full production performed at the Rose site in approximately 400 years. [...] The "stage" was mostly confined to the exhibition viewing platform, the area which overlooks the Rose Theatre's remains. A playing area of approximately twelve feet by eight feet had been sectioned off on the platform, draped in oriental carpets, and surrounded on three sides by risers for the audience. Black gauze and lanterns hung from the ceiling, while the theatre itself was scented with incense. The costumes, designed by Dagmar Morrell, mixed elements of tradition Mid-Eastern dress, such as the purdah worn by the Virgin of Damascus, with contemporary Western costume, evoked by the biker vest and mullet sported by Theridamas. [...]
This Tamburlaine may have been bound in a nutshell, but it was king of an infinite space. The show began and ended with a ritual encompassing the entire Rose. [...] Music was integral to the entire production, with the actors doubling as musicians, playing songs on traditional instruments to underscore the action.
Ben Naylor's direction emphasised ritual and symbolism. Battles were represented through slow, stylised movement similar to the war dance in the Globe's Edward II. The burning of Larissa, the town where Zenocrate dies, was represented through another symbolic action. An actor entered with a votive candle, and then lit flash paper, throwing the flames towards the audience before it dissolved.
In the programme notes, adaptor and dramaturg Ben Power acknowledged the "reduction" necessary in transforming Tamburlaine into a single, two-hour version. He explained they were presenting not the entire play but a "distillation of those thematic concerns which seemed to us the most relevant, exciting and attainable." The resultant adaptation, if not a Tamburlainefor purists, was swiftly-moving and dramatic. Several characters, including Anippe, Callapine, and two of Tamburlaine's sons (Amyras and Celebinus), were cut, or merged into others. Some events were presented out of their original sequence to accommodate the simplified story arc. Bajazeth and Zabina, for example, survived until the events of Part Two, becoming the "jades of Asia" conscripted into dragging Tamburlaine's golden chariot.
Many roles were doubled by the all-male company, who spoke Marlowe's verse with assurance, if not always eloquence. MArk Arends, who gave a poignant performence as Zenocrate, also played the Citizen of Babylon. Alex Blake lent gravity to the roles of Basso, the Sultan of Egypt, and Governor of Damascus. Julian Blundell lent dignity to the divergent roles of Agydas, Zabina, and the virgin of Damascus (reduced to one from the original four). Nathaniel Wiseman imbued the foppish Mycetes with mischievous humour while making Calyphas, Tamburlaine's son, more gentle than cowardly. [...] Khalid Abdalla made a steely, if non-compelling Tamburlaine. Kwaku Ankomah made a terrifying , majestic Bajazeth, while Richard Simons lent surprising compassion to the role of Theridamas. James Tovell provided a forceful presence in the somewhat expanded role of Usumcasane.'
Heather J. Violanti, RORD 43 (2004), 123-4
List of reviews:
Lyn Gardner, 'Tamburlaine the Great' The Guardian, 15 September 2003
Sam Marlowe, 'Tamburlaine the Great', The Times, 16 September 2003
Jaspre Bark, What's On, 17 September 2003
Jane Edwards, Time Out, 17 September 2003
Sarah Hemming, Financial Times, 23 September 2003
L. Grace Godwin, Shakespeare Bulletin, 22 (June 2004)