by Philip Massinger.
Salisbury Playhouse Salthouse Lane SP2 7RA To 27 November 2010.
Mon-Wed 7.30pm Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Thu & Sa 2.30pm.
Audio-described 25 Nov 2.30pm & 8pm.
BSL Signed 24 Nov.
Post Show Discussion 23 November
Setting the Scene 10 Nov 6.30pm.
Theatre Day 18 Nov 11.30am
TICKETS: 01722 320333.
Review: Mark Courtice 5 November.
Excellent choice of revival given skilful production.
It’s fitting that Massinger’s neglected play (first performed in 1629) should have been disinterred and revived by Salisbury Playhouse Artistic Director Philip Wilson, as the playwright was born in the town.
It’s an excellent choice. Veering between melodrama and farce the play explores the nature of sexual obsession with remarkable freedom. It’s also notable in having two forceful women protagonists. Written in free-flowing verse (for the most part extremely well handled by the large cast) the play is energetic and engaging.
Mathias goes off to war with a magic portrait that will let him know if wife Sophia has been unfaithful. Unfortunately he’s the one tempted when he meets the redoubtable Queen Honoria, who’s used to getting her own way, and who sees his faithfulness as an irresistible challenge. Add in a couple of louche aristocrats ready to do anything to keep in with Honoria, and some rustics ready to crack skulls on Sophia’s behalf and you have a heady mix of plot and counter-plot.
You also have a couple of emotionally weedy men of contrasting foolishness (one dotes, the other doubts) taught a lesson by strong women (one beautiful and spoilt, one beautiful and virtuous).
The women’s roles are a gift not wasted on Teresa Banham and Olivia Grant. Banham handles Honoria’s tricky transformation from arrogance to humility and Grant achieves real character and emotion, her explosive rage at being betrayed balancing the virtue.
There’s a splendid performance from Christopher Good as Eubulus who speaks truth to power, and is old enough to be above the marital fray. He is acerbic, dryly funny and times his barbs with trenchant skill.
Wilson’s skilful production is a bit decorous. The two courtiers are written as rapacious predators, so treating them like Brokers’ Men from panto weakens their impact. This softening tendency is underlined by setting the show in 19th Century Hungary, moving us to musical comedy territory.
Production values are high. Colin Falconer’s tracery covered screen-like walls set on a formal parquet floor work well. The portrait is conceived here as a daguerreotype, appearing through the wall with well handled projections.
Acanthe Rachel Atkins.
Honoria Teresa Banham.
Ladislaus Stefan Bednarczyk.
Eubulus Christopher Good.
Sophia Olivia Grant.
Mathias Simon Harrison.
Corsica Denise Hoey.
Hilario Russell Layton.
Ricardo Christopher Logan.
Julio Baptista William Mannering.
Ferdinand Roger Ringrose.
Ubaldo Duncan Wisbey.
Director: Philip Wilson.
Designer: Colin Falconer.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound/Music: Jon Nicholls.