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The Malcontent by John Marston. Swan Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon.
Directed by Dominic Cooke. Designed by Robert Innes Hopkins. Music by Gary Yershon.
Review by site user Ben Whitehouse
The final play that completes the repertoire for this season in the Swan is a bit of a curate's egg. It is The Malcontent.
It's a little-performed play by John Marston that doesn't have a high enough body count to be a tragedy (in fact, no one dies) and doesn't have enough belly laughs to count as a comedy.
Dominic Cooke has shifted the play forward 370 years or so to the sweaty 1970s in Genoa, Italy.
Ben Whitehouse, reviewer
Much will, no doubt, be made of the 'concept' that Dominic Cooke has imposed on the text.
He's shifted the play forward 370 years or so to the sweaty 1970s in Genoa, Italy.
Not enough was made of the chances to clearly set up the plot for the audience.
I was confused about just who was sleeping with whom and what some of the character's function was within the reality of the play.
The Malcontent lacks gravitas but it enjoyable
The play unfolds like this:
Altofront, Duke of Genoa (Sir Antony Sher), has been deposed by his rival Peitro with the help of the Florentines.
Altofront returns to his court disguised as the malcontent Malevole. Celso (Paul Bhattacharjee), the one courtier faithful to Altofront, is his only confidant.
I've never seen Sher play a comic character before, as I've only seen him play troubled powerful characters- Macbeth, Leontes, Chief Weasel and Titus Andronicus.
It was delightful to see him shifting through such a range of emotions and guises and he made it look so effortless.
Sir Antony was delightful
Ben Hicks seems to have a semi-nudity clause in his contract as he appears several times scantily-clad and looking slightly wary about it.
Clair Benedict cut a sassy streetwise figure with the largest Afro I've seen in a while. She sparred brilliantly with the characters around her whipping the audience into fits of laughter.
It doesn't have the sparkling satire of Eastward Ho! or the gravitas of Edward III but I still enjoyed the play.