THERE’S a temptation to always look hard at Shakespeare’s plays for a way of seeing a mirror on ourselves. Yet it’s easy to reflect on the contemporary resonance in the RSC’s latest play Measure For Measure particularly with the #MeToo movement.

Worcester’s Lucy Phelps plays Isabella who is forced by state deputy Angelo to choose between her chastity and her brother’s life.

A man in an executive position tries to sexually blackmail a woman in his office. Ring any alarm bells? RSC director Gregory Doran sets the play in 1900s Vienna at the time of the end of the Habsburg dynasty. A time of Freud, Klimt and Mahler; a time of sexual repression and upheaval.

Shakespeare’s play was first performed at the turn of 1600 to the new king James 1, intent on cracking down on liberal society

Claudio (James Cooney) faces a death sentence for fornication unless his sister Isabella gives herself to the man who has sentenced him, Angelo. The Duke of Vienna has gone into disguise as a monk to see how bad he has allowed society to fall in his liberalism. The message is clear although this is another of Shakespeare’s “problem” plays and nothing is resolved other than Isabella being let down by every man in the play! Former St Mary’s Convent girl Lucy Phelps continues her strong Stratford season. Phelp’s speech “To whom should I complain…who would believe me?” echoes in every sexual tribunal case in this country and beyond.

Measure For Measure runs until August 29.

John Murphy.