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Tamburlaine the Great

by Christopher Marlowe

Company: The Citizens’ Company

Venue: Close Theatre, Glasgow & Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

Performance dates: Various in Autumn 1972 and early 1973

Synopsis: A shepherd rises by his conquests in battle to become one of the most powerful men in the world. His unbounded ambition and pitiless cruelty are a humbling lesson to tyrants throughout the ages. His only weakness is his love for the daughter of a King.


Rehearsal of Tamburlaine
Mycetes- Murray Salem
Theridamas- James Aubrey
Bajazeth- Ian McDiarmid
Tamburlaine- Rupert Frazer
- Jeffery Kissoon
- Mike Gwilym
Techelles- Dave Yelland
Usumcasane- Chris Brown
Soldan of Egypt- Jonathan Levy
Amyras- Colin Haigh
Calyphas- Jeremy Blake
Celebinus- Laurance Rudic
Callapine- Jonathan Kent
Zenocrate- Paola Dionisotti
Zabina - Jill Spurrier
Olympia- Angela Chadfield
Anippe - Celia Foxe


This lavish spectacle with its glorious costumes and gallons of blood drew rave reviews from the critics, although the use of three different actors to portray the lead character at different stages of his life seemd to bemuse some of them. As the personnel of the Company changed, the Rôles were adjusted and by early 1973 Lewis was playing the 'middle' Tamburlaine character.

Lewis’s comments:

"I learned Tamburlaine the Great in three days. Photographic mind stuff. But I had to - it was going on in five days. I was up early and burning the candle late at night, in tears, the lot! But it's surprising what you can do if you turn your mind to it."

"It's a helluva part – not many people have played it. It was a challenge for me to get as far with it as we could."

"The cast picked up twenty-three stitches for various injuries. I got four on my hand plus a lot of smaller cuts. To make things worse, someone broke a lance over my head and the end came off and cut me. The most frightening bit was when a little girl came on and I had to whirl a huge sword round her head. I'd actually knocked one bloke out with it so we were all a bit worried, except for the little girl herself - I used to wink at her just before so's she wouldn't be too scared and in fact, the problem was to stop her laughing!"

"Lewis Collins, who takes over as the middle-aged Tamburlaine, stems all the tatty grandeur of the first act." Unknown Newspaper, February, 1973