by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Shakespeare’s Globe New Globe Walk Bankside SE1 9DT To 1 March 2015.
2.30pm 24, 28, 31 Jan, 5, 7, 13, 15, 19, 21, 26, 28 Feb, 1 March.
7.30pm 23-25, 27 Jan-1 Feb, 4, 5, 8, 10, 15, 17 Feb, 1 March.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7401 9919. (£2.50 transaction fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 January.

Splendid revival of a superb drama.
In the age of Shakespeare dramatists routinely collaborated on scripts, like scriptwriters on TV soaps. Any of them might have made a lively horror-show of The Changeling’s main story. Fortunately, it came the way of Thomas Middleton, though he hived off its secondary story to fellow-writer, and actor William Rowley.

If it hadn’t been for Shakespeare the Jacobean era might be known as the age of Middleton – he was born in 1580. Easily its next-most subtle, psychologically penetrating writer, he was at home with comedy or tragedy, and his two main tragedies (the other is the sinister Women Beware Women) have a rare complexity of character.

Take Beatrice-Joanna. Still under her father’s control she’s determined to marry the man she impulsively loves, not the suitor her father’s arranged. But it’s open to question how much she realises the consequences of her actions; whether she is totally innocent, if self-willed – or whether her psychology leans to manipulation and crime.

Questions might be asked of the servant Deflores, obsessed with Beatrice-Joanna, who finds him repulsive – when he touches a glove she’s dropped, she throws its partner away in disgust. He is supposedly facially disfigured, though Trystan Gravelle’s apparently lightweight yet insistent manner proves cosmetic are unnecessary. It is The Duchess of Malfi in reverse – a servant pursuing the mistress who rejects him.

But Middleton’s masterstroke is the change in power and consequent desire. When he has murdered the unwanted suitor, instead of taking a bribe Deflores demands Beatrice-Joanna’s body. He gets it, and her sudden desire for him too. Hattie Morahan makes clear in voice and manner the shock as Beatrice-Joanna is overwhelmed by unexpected desire.

Rowley’s plot, about sexual jealousy in a madhouse, often (when played at all) seems a let-down. Not in Dominic Dromgoole’s well-judged production, thanks to Phil Whitchurch’s anxious yet ineffectual asylum-keeper and Pearce Quigley as the trusty Lollio, ordering the inmates about with comic ferocity.

At the end characters stand around announcing they are changed; but the play’s heart lies with the dead at stage-centre, killed by desires and brought alive by Middleton’s perception and pointed poetry.

Vermandero: Liam Brennan.
Servant/Madman: Matt Doherty.
Jasperino/Pedro: Peter Hamilton Dyer.
Antonio: Brian Ferguson.
Deflores: Trystan Gravelle.
Alsemero: Simon Harrison.
Omazo: Joe Jameson.
Franciscus: Adam Lawrence.
Isabella: Sarah MacRae.
Beatrice-Joanna: Hattie Morahan.
Lollio: Pearce Quigley.
Alonzo: Tom Stuart.
Diaphanta: Thalissa Teixeira.
Alibius: Phil Whitchurch.

Director: Dominic Dromgoole.
Designer: Jonathan Fensom.
Composer: Claire van Kampen.
Musical Director: Sophie Barber.
Choreographer: Siân Williams.
Globe Associate – text: Giles Block.
Globe Associate – movement: Glynn MacDonald.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.
Assistant director: John Haldar.

2015-01-23 13:29:30

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