ARDEN OF FAVERSHAM
Clwyd Theatr Cymru (Emlyn Williams Theatre) To 6 March 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 2.45pm.
Audio-described 25 Feb.
Captioned 27 Feb 2.45pm.
Post-show Discussion 25 Feb, 4 March.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
TICKETS: 0845 330 3565.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 February.
Not whodunit, but are-they-ever-going-to-get-it-done?
A good year so far for Elizabethan domestic murder. Following London’s White Bear Yorkshire Tragedy, showing a desperate husband turning on his family, Mold reverses the criminal direction with Kent-based Arden of Faversham, where a wife compounds adultery by plotting her husband’s death. Both plays drew on actual cases.
Perfect murders? Well, no-one knows who committed them to paper. And Arden shares one similarity with novels from the inter-war Golden Age of British crime fiction. The victim is hardly sympathetic, a point the script moralises upon when his body is deposited in a field he’d gained by economic sharp practice.
It takes time to get him there. There’s something also of the Golden Age comedy-thriller here, in the repeated failures of various assassins to get their man. Poison bought from a gruesomely-bearded apothecary tastes so horrid Arden spits it out. Local thug Black Will turns out to be a loudmouth who’s singularly ineffective in action (his less than vocal, less than intelligent sidekick’s called Shakebag: a pair of names to set the Shakespeare apocryphists alight).
Coincidences repeatedly keep the action going, with Hollywood incredibility. Any domesticity’s kept austere on Martyn Bainbridge’s neutral sliding-panel set, useful for the murder attempts and for swiftly switching locations. Terry Hands’ production enjoys the comic moments but its core is the reality of these lives.
Ifan Huw Dafydd’s Arden, repeatedly swayed by his young wife, is bear-like against economic opponents. John Cording brings a concentrated authority to his friend Franklin, making a shrewd commentator of someone whose name summarises his character and standing.
Brendan Charleson is a disreputable-looking Black Will. His sneering smile seems less fearsome each time it reappears, but his keenness to acquire money is an underworld equivalent to Arden’s brusque acquisitiveness. Looming dully over him is Dyfrig Morris’s mountainous sidekick.
There’s apt facility in Daniel Llewelyn-Williams’ younger lover while Steven Meo’s self-interested servant Michael is determined to get his girl by any means. And Hedydd Dylan gives young Alice, the treacherous wife, a dangerous attraction, smiling as she explains her behaviour to her husband, charged with sexual urgency when plotting his death.
Arden: Ifan Huw Dafydd.
Franklin: John Cording.
Alice: Hedydd Dylan.
Michael: Steven Meo.
Mosby: Daniel Llewelyn-Williams.
Clarke/Lord Cheiny: Stephen Marzella.
Greene: Wayne Cater.
Susan: Michelle Luther.
Bradshaw/Ferryman: Simon Holland Roberts.
Black Will: Brendan Charleson.
Shakebag: Dyfrig Morris.
Prentice/Dick Reede: Grahame Fox.
Director: Terry Hands.
Designer: Martyn Bainbridge.
Sound: Matthew Williams.
Composer: Colin Towns.
Costume: Debbie Knight.
Fights: Terry King.
Assistant director: Kate Wasserberg.