"The Duchess Of Malfi" by John Webster
The play begins as a love story, with a Duchess who marries beneath her class, and ends as a nightmarish tragedy as her two brothers exact their revenge, destroying themselves in the process. Jacobean drama continued the trend of stage violence and horror set by Elizabethan tragedy,
There's a real difference shown from the start of the play with its' lavish settings and ending up in a very dark place. There's plenty of bloodshed and some pretty horrific murders.The killing of the Duchess herself was quite basic and brutal and may shock a few people.
It's a love story as well as the story of a strong woman who knows what she wants but pays the price for her free-wheeling ways. She embarks on several affairs and spawns three children, two of which are also murdered with her.
Beatriz Romilly who plays the Duchess is excellent throughout, as are all of the actors here, but it's nice to see a woman at the centre of a tragedy. The language may take a bit of time to digest but if you can get on with Shakespeare's rhythm and rhyme, you'll have no problems with this play.
Apart from the rich language of the play, there's great atmosphere created by the light and the sound design from Mark Jonathan and Jon Nicholls respectively.
Directed by Fiona Buffini, she brings out the female element of the play which securely centres The Duchess as the character everything, and everyone revolves around. Fiona makes sure that we focus on the element of cherishing what we have because when it's taken away, things can be oh so different, and that's where the disturbing sections of the play starts.
There's good use of light and shade highlighting comic aspects against the barbaric dark murders and even touches on the supernatural, so there really is something to whet anyone's Jacobean theatrical likes.
A vein of corruption runs throughout the play. Perhaps the most apt representative of corruption is the deadly Cardinal (Patrick Brennan), a man ready to employ lesser beings to commit murders for him, then cast them aside. He is no stranger to murder himself as he kills his own mistress, Julia (Rebecca Sarker) by making her kiss a poisoned book.
A brilliant evening of theatre with a dark theme which will satisfy the blood lust of anyone who loves a good meaty story of forbidden love and bloody murder.
"The Duchess Of Malfi" is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 14 November 2015.