The Revenger’s Tragedy (La tragedia del vendicatore): Middleton (trans. Massini): Barbican Arts Centre, London: to March 7th 2020: 4****. Mark Courtice

The Revenger’s Tragedy (La tragedia del vendicatore)

Thomas Middleton (translated Stefano Massini) adapted by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod

Performed in Italian with English surtitles

Presented by the Barbican, Cheek by Jowl and Piccolo Teatro di Milano – Teatro d’Europa, in a co-production with Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione.


Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS

4th – 7th March 2020 19.45

Pre-show talk for members, Fri 6 Mar 6pm, Fountain Room

Weekend Lab, Sat 7 – Sun 8 Mar 2020

Age guidance 16+ (sexual content and strong violence)

020 7638 8891

Running time 2 hours and 15 minutes, no interval


Review Mark Courtice 5th March 2020

Cheek by Jowl have teamed up with Piccolo Teatro di Milano on this new Italian version of Middleton’s play; it’s both vicious and riotous. From the opening vision of capering grotesques moving across the front of the stage to the ending where everyone is murdering everyone else, it zips along with scarcely a pause for breath, let alone a chance to think, which doesn’t make it any easier to follow the complicated plot. As to that, it’s a tangled interweaving of betrayal, corruption, murder and horror. Although the tragedy for Vindice (the avenger) is that he must die in his turn, his own worst enemy, the journey to this realisation is always brutal, often very funny.

The acting is vital, energetic and full blooded. With names like Lussurioso it’s easy to assume that characters must be played in one dimension, but here the performances are very skilled. Fausto Cabra is splendid, investing Vindice with a rich mixture of rage, shame and frustrated morality. Pia Lanciotti plays both the light-skirt Duchess and Vindice’s compromised mother, this double performance underlining that there is more than one way to be a bad parent. A lovely double act between David Meden and Christian Di Filippo as Ambizioso and Supervacuo combines physicality and comic bone-headed villainy.

Everything takes place in front of a blood red wooden wall, from which scenes emerge (often stage managed by Vindice, creatively using smoke, skulls, corpses and skeletons as props). The English surtitles aim for a sort of renaissance tone, translated from an Italian version of an original English text, a long journey which leads to some delightful variations on the original. The production standards are very high, the look of the production consistently blood-spattered. The lively music is apt. Modern dress reminds us that this isn’t just an historical curiosity.

Director: Declan Donnellan

Design: Nick Ormerod

Lighting: Judith Greenwood, Claudio De Pace

Music: Gianluca Misiti

Assistant Director: Francesco Bianchi

Movement: Alessio Maria Romano



Lussurioso: Ivan Alovisio

Judge: Marco Brinzi

Vindice: Fausto Cabra

Junior: Flavio Capuzzo Dolcetta

Supervacuo: Christian Di Filippo

Ippolito: Raffaele Esposito

Bishop: Ruggero Franceschini

The Duchess/Graziana: Pia Lanciotti

Spurio: Errico Liguori

Castizia: Marta Malvestiti

Ambizioso: David Meden

The Duke: Massimiliano Speziani

Doctor: Beatrice Vecchione

Jailer: Marouane Zotti

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