http://www.blogger.com/template-edit.g?blogID=27684744 ARTYFACTS: Sex, incest & violence in The Duchess of Malfi: Old Vic

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sex, incest & violence in The Duchess of Malfi: Old Vic


Although 500 years old, this Jacobean tragedy is more soaked in sex, incest and violence than your average 18-rated horror movie. It’s a year’s worth of tabloid headlines all wrapped up in one play, with a church sex scandal, incestuous relationship among the toffs, honour killing, spying, poisoning, hangings, stranglings, knifings, serial killing, even a werewolf. It's a Jacobean horror.
The set is magnificent, a tall, menacing structure, full of back-stairs and side entrances with hooded extras and candle-lit entrances. The Duchess enters back-lit from the back of the stage, first as a Queen Elizabeth figure – regal in virginal white. It’s difficult to think of her without reference to Elizabeth 1 – a powerful woman in a society that saw women in traditional terms. Her will takes her into unchartered territory where danger lurks and that’s her downfall. The men are feckless, duplicitous, power-hungry and murderous and she stands alone as someone with backbone and principles. Eve Best is matched only by Harold Lloyd as Ferdinand.
As usual there's a half-villain, Bozola, played as a mercenary Scot. (This seems to be our new fate in fiction - to be seen as lone-wolf, criminal types, who will do anything that's a bit dodgy, with little or no principle.) However, I read this as a clever reference to James 1, who was seen as an unworthy successor to Elizabeth. Charles Spencer, the ill-educated, smug, snobbish, theatre critic for the Telegraph, completely misses this point and attacked the use of a Scottish accent in his review. The fat, lazy critic even had to drag out that old quote about a Scotsman and a ray of sunshine.
London’s theatres have seen the triumph of Euripides over Aeschylus, with musicals, comedy and farce on every corner. It’s good, therefore, to see some serious work, well executed at the Old Vic.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home