You can read 9 more articles this month
The Duchess Of Malfi
The Swan Theatre
MARIA ABERG’S 2014 production of John Webster’s Jacobean tragedy The White Devil demonstrated that she is at home with that writer’s blood-soaked, nightmare world. There is certainly no shortage of blood in her treatment of Webster’s great companion piece The Duchess of Malfi.
The final scenes involve the cast wading around and rolling in a lake of blood to such an extent that many in the audience must have worried about the RSC laundry bills.
Whereas her earlier production reminded us of an Italianate US gangster fiefdom, this slimmed-down version of Webster’s other major tragedy has no sense of any social context in which the inane cruelties take place.
The focus of the bare set is the hanging headless torso of some elephantine creature and a bed serving for sex and slaughter gives nothing else away.
Apart from some frenetic choreographed hakas, where menacing macho males threaten the defiant Duchess, the production leading up to its gory finale could have been a radio drama.
Like the rest of the cast wandering through this inchoate hell, Joan Iyiola’s Duchess, whose brothers respond to her marrying against their will by torturing her before killing her and her children, seems lost.
Only Nicolas Tennant’s malcontent Bosola, an efficient murderer whose moment of remorse rings hollowly, fits well into this shapeless Armageddon.
Webster certainly saw “the skull beneath the skin.”
But his tragedies embody a fierce satiric strain that can shock his audience into confronting a moral challenge to the kind of world which we see every day on our screens.
Here the shock is everything, the questioning goes begging.
Runs until August 3, box office: rsc.org.uk
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.