love, betrayal, revenge and murder... it's all here.
Webster's Jacobean tragedy plays like a particularly bloodthirsty
17th century soap opera.
is brimming with so many poisonings, stabbings, shootings,
stranglings and other assorted nastiness that by the end of
this three-hour epic, the stage is running with imagined blood
director Robert Hamlin and crew decided against using coloured
sugar water or any other fakery to recreate this (I don't
think my stomach could have coped with it) - but still, the
mind is a powerful tool.
action, originally based in Renaissance Italy, has been moved
to 1930s-era Hollywood in this production by the final year
students of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
costume designers clearly had fun with gangster-style hourglass
suits, drop-waisted dresses and pageboy hairstyles (though
the monk disguises used by Lodovico and Gasparo later in the
play jar somewhat with the American setting).
set, an art deco, geometrically-patterned room with marble-effect
floor and walls, screens and occasional music (including the
rousing rendition of Old Devil Moon with which the play opens)
complete the look and feel of the era.
vows to avenge the murder of Isabella, who he had loved
Cawood puts in an assured turn as Flamineo, the swaggering,
scheming villain of the piece, pimping his sister to further
his own ambitious ends.
almost everyone else in the cast, he meets a sticky end -
his is surely the most drawn-out death, but thankfully Cawood
avoids any temptation to ham it up.
the 'notorious strumpet' who is tried and imprisoned for the
murder of her husband Camillo (despite the lack of evidence)
is played with confidence and panache by Lindsay York-Jones.
character is by turns victim, heroine and villainess, but
York-Jones fits each role comfortably.
Stone gives the Duke of Brachiano a slightly sleazy tone -
his oiled hair and pencil moustache adding to the illusion.
main characters are aided by a strong supporting cast - special
mentions for Adam Stone as the slightly sad but misguided
Count Lodovico, and Bruce McNeal as a suitably slimy Cardinal
Lawson, as Vittoria's Moorish servant Zanche impresses, as
does Ian Bonar in the role of Giovanni - one of the few characters
left standing when the curtain falls.
only criticism (and to be honest this is of the play itself
rather than the production) is that it feels a little over-long.
the harrowing nature of much of the action, some theatre-goers
may emerge feeling as though they have been through the wars
in all, the Old Vic students have put on an impressive show.
It should appeal particularly to Quentin Tarantino fans looking
for something with a bit more history - or to anyone looking
to spot some of the potential stars of the future.