by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.
Young Vic Theatre 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 25 February 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.45pm. sold out – returns only.
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 February.
Production glories in its own mess.
Apart from Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton was among the finest dramatists of his time. This tragedy, co-authored with William Rowley, has mainly kept the under-revived author on the modern stage. It’s certainly modern (tabloids would revel in it), with its story of poor little rich girl Beatrice-Joanna instructing her hated, disfigured servant De Flores to kill her fiancée so she can marry new lover Alsemero.
She expects to pay-off the killer but he’s obsessed with her, an obsession she comes to return. Though Beatrice-Joanna has been played as more sophisticated, Jessica Raine’s slight figure has the manner of someone more certain of her world than she ought to be.
She’s first seen standing reverently in church, Alsemero admiring her, with a quiet sense of order which Joe Hill-Gibbins’ production progressively undermines – and has already contrasted with the opening’s sudden lighting changes and mishmash of sounds.
Raine keeps Beatrice-Joanna’s hatred of De Flores private, contrasting her politeness to others and loving smiles towards Alsemero. Two tables laid for her marriage, not to the person originally intended, are carefully laid – ironically by Daniel Cerqueria’s gravely reliable-seeming De Flores – then gradually disordered. Despite the killer’s later reference to running his victim through, he stifles him in a desert. No ingredient is safe; once the guilt is discovered the characters start throwing gobs of jelly at the dying murderer.
He and she are each other’s victim by both in their obsessive passion and in physical killing. If the whole world seems mad – as in Middleton’s long-misattributed Revenger’s Tragedy – it’s something matched in the secondary plot, set in an asylum, where the sane Antonio has himself admitted to pursue the owner’s wife.
Ultz’s set spaces the audience on several levels, a society itself fragmented, and ties the plots together with various compartments where the insane laugh and cry, where Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores end up locked away, and where Alsemero keeps his fidelity-testing drugs.
There is a loss to all the excitement; the subtlety and imagery of Middleton’s verse can pass in generalised excitement or naturalistic under-emphasis. But it’s a startling, if not definitive Changeling.
Jasperino/Lollio: Alex Beckett.
De Flores: Daniel Cerqueira.
Alsemero: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.
Tomazo/Antonio: Henry Lloyd-Hughes.
Diaphanta/Isabella: Charlotte Lucas.
Beatrice-Joanna: Jessica Raine.
Vermandero: Howard Ward.
Alonzo/Alibius: Duncan Wisbey.
Director: Joe Hill-Gibbins.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Sound: Paul Arditti.
Choreographer: Maxine Doyle.
Dramaturg: Zoe Svendsen.
Assistant director: Jeff James.