by John Ford.

Swan Theatre In rep to 24 June 2015.
1.30pm 2, 6, 12, 16, 20, 30 May, 3, 13 June.
7.30pm 2, 4, 5, 9, 11, 12, 15, 19, 20, 23, 25, 28, 29 May, 2, 6, 8, 11, 12, 16, 17, 20, 22-24 June.
13 June 1.30pm (+ Touch Tour 11.15am-12pm), 17 June (+ Touch Tour 5.15pm-6pm).
Captioned 29 May, 23 June.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 800 1114.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 April.

Action drama, 1630s style.
I don’t go along with the dumbed-down populism of the unbright and breezy assertion that a modern Shakespeare would write soap-operas, sitcoms or other fodder. But I can believe, especially in the light of Matthew Dunster’s action-packed, highly visual, fast-paced – and exceedingly rare – revival of Love’s Sacrifice that the author of this 1633 Tragedy could have built a successful career as a Hollywood scriptwriter.

His titles alone, on suitably lurid posters, would have sold movies –‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE!’, or a tagline like “The lifeless trunk shall wed – THE BROKEN HEART!” Or this emotion-wrencher. What’s more the noir sensibility is soaked through these plays; cruelty making all relationships – siblings or newlyweds – dangerously sinister. Corpses, starvation and cruelty fill his plots, and the grandeur of a court setting only intensifies the mood.

Dunster’s upfront approach doesn’t blank-out character but keeps the dangerous edge of things to the fore. Designer Anna Fleischle provides a grove, which, with projections, can become a tunnel into darkness, a pastoral scene or a Cathedral’s nave leading to the intricacies and shallows of dangerous power. As Geoffrey Freshwater’s raddled Abbot shows, complacently viewing events and making moral comments, the church is no harbour of morality.

Behind the Duke of Pavy’s story might lie a life dramatised in David Pownall’s 1976 play Music to Murder By. Carlo Gesualdo, Italian Count and Prince, was born the same year as Shakespeare, and in 1590, jealous of his wife’s presumed affair, he killed her and her lover, turning then to composing madrigals and religious music, of distinction but also, often, weirdly modern discords, for the near quarter-century until he died in 1613.

Of the two, this is the less cerebral and more impassioned Gesualdo-derivative (though someone should revive Pownall’s play). With black curls and facial hair Matthew Needham embodies power and passion, controlled and calculating but sure to burst out.

There’s a moment with a coffin to match the moments of heart-stopping visual surprise cinema provides. But Dunster doesn’t cheapen and each character is vividly presented, including Matthew Kelly’s Mauriccio, the butt of jokes providing pathetic humour among the tension.

Duke of Pavy: Matthew Needham.
Bianca: Catrin Stewart.
Fernando: Jamie Thomas King.
Fiormonda: Beth Cordingley.
D’Avolos: Jonathan McGuinness.
Roseilli: Marcus Griffiths.
Petruchio: Richard Rees.
Nibrassa: Guy Burgess.
Ferentes: Andy Apollo.
Colona: Rhiannon Handy.
Julia: Sheila Atim.
Morona:/Nun Annette McLaughlin.
Mauruccio: Matthew Kelly.
Giacopo/Friar: Colin Ryan.
Abbot: Geoffrey Freshwater.
Courtier/Guard/Friar: Julian Hoult.
Lady-in-Waiting/Nun: Gabby Wong.
Guards/Friars: Simon Hedger, Nav Sidhu.

Director: Matthew Dunster.
Designer: Anna Fleischle.
Lighting: Lee Curran.
Sound: Ian Dickinson.
Music: Alexander Balanescu.
Music Director: Gareth Ellis.
Video: Dick Straker.
Movement: Charlotte Broom.
Company Text and Voice work: Emma Woodvine.
Fights: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Robyn Winfield-Smith.

2015-05-04 17:23:30

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