by Thomas Middleton.

Brockley Jack Studio Theatre 410 Brockley Road SE4 2DH To 21 March 2015.
Tue–Sat 7.45pm.
Runs 1hr 40min. No interval.

TICKETS: 0333 666 3366.
Review: William Russell 3 March.

Successful stew of corruption, seduction and homicide in Venice.
Thomas Middleton’s’ play is a wonderful stew of high-flown language and base desires in which everyone behaves very badly and just deserts are dished out all-round at the end.

Director Gavin Harrington-Odedra has come up with a brisk, effective adaptation, setting the action inside a golden circular space surrounded by darkness. The cast emerge from the shadows, robotic figures while in the gloom, springing to life when they emerge into the light. It works amazingly well.

The problem with the production is that the actors have to double-up in minor roles – slightly confusing, given the plot is confused enough in the first place. But it does not detract from the overall effectiveness of an ambitious evening and the ensemble playing is admirable.

Middleton’s plays, like the work of all Jacobean playwrights, can seem a pointless series of bloodlettings and hysterical plot-lines. But this play is more than that and the horror of innocence betrayed, of a society, corrupt at the top and pretty rotten at the bottom, in which women are pawns to be played for gain, abused and seduced comes over effectively.

There is the odd moment when one can only laugh out-loud as something utterly outrageous occurs, but this is the precursor of the horror movie and they too have moments when tension has to be broken, to be recreated later.

The production makes good use of light and darkness and sound and as the run proceeds things will improve. This was the first (preview) performance. But if a company is going to get it wrong it will be wrong from the beginning.

It is a difficult play and doing it straight through means the audience is taken on a roller-coaster ride of mounting horror – an interval would require starting over again to build tension and suspend disbelief at the undeniably over the top goings-on ; virgins are seduced, mothers betray their daughters, wives their husbands, a man is poisoned by kissing the skull of one of his victims thinking he is being given a maiden to enjoy, and brothers and half-brothers plot to kill one another.

Vindice: Lewis Davidson.
Hippolito: Alex Di Cuffa.
Gratiana/Duchess: Paula James.
Castiza: Elle Banstead-Salim.
Duke: Tom Jobson.
Lussurioso: Liam Steward-George.
Ambitioso: Alexandra Reynolds.
Supervacuo: Jamie O’Neil.
Spurio: Joe Mott.
Junior Brother: Joseph Wakelin.
Antonio: Samuel Freeman.

Director: Gavin Harrington-Odedra.
Lighting: Stuart Glover.
Sound: Neil McKeown.
Costume: Rachel Dingle.
Dramaturg: Sara Reimers.
Assistant director: Ash Hardman.

2015-03-04 00:16:20

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