THE DUKE IN DARKNESS
by Patrick Hamilton adapted by Orlando Wells.
Tabard Theatre 2 Bath Road W4 1LW To 11 May 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 4pm & Sun 2pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8995 6035.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 April..
A chance to see 20th-century English theatre’s great depressive in historical mode.
Historical plays from olden days are hard to pull-off. We accept the 1940s expressed in their own setting and manners, but when, as with Patrick Hamilton’s drama of a noble Protestant prisoner in 16th-century Catholic France, the characters and clothing belong to another era, the forties dramatic style clashes with modern sensibility.
So Patrick Hamilton’s 1944 drama, with its parallels to the German Occupation of France, has been reshaped by adapter Orlando Wells to expand the relationship between the Duke of Laterraine, whose terrain for the past 16 years has been a room in a tower, and his servant Gribaud.
Like a marriage, the producers say, but it seems like any relationship that’s confined two contrasted people in one small room. Familiarity and prison-syndrome dominate, with the gradual attempt to forge an escape only re-asserting that incarceration will be lifelong.
Till others intervene, that is, planning a rescue unleashed in the production’s frantic final half-hour. But it comes at a cost; Gribaud, who has alas veered increasingly towards that most embarrassing dramatic type, the mentally disturbed innocent, must be left behind. His imaginary world needs more careful writing and direction than it receives here.
He’s unceremoniously and literally dumped as a false trail for pursuers. And director Phoebe Barran ends in vagueness rather than ambiguity with the self-satisfied smile of plotter Voulain. Whatever his self-satisfaction has up its sleeve, it’s a secret the play hasn’t suggested to us.
This remains, though, another valuable example of a fringe theatre, on limited budget, exploring the repertory of plays unknown today. This one, indeed, is barely available in second-hand bookshops. And Barran’s cast make the essential points, Martin Miller particularly good with relaxed ducal authority finally changing to anger at being outwitted, while her production builds through the characters’ plans and hesitations.
It’s greatly helped by Max Dorey’s set, the second Tabard design in succession that would not disgrace a bigger budget show. Its use of levels, and a dark space behind wood slats, as well as below walls, creates a sense of isolation while also providing space for action involving several characters.
Duke of Laterraine: Michael Palmer.
Gribaud: Jamie Treacher.
Voulain: Jake Mann.
Marteau: Matthew Fraser-Holland.
Duke of Lamorre: Martin Miller.
D’Aublaye: Sean Pogmore.
Director: Phoebe Barran.
Designer: Max Dorey.
Lighting: Nicki Brown.
Sound: Simon Evans.
Costume: Ameena Kara Callender.
Fight director: Ronin Traynor.