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|A CurtainUp Review
The Revenger's Tragedy
This is a dark and brooding production with some carefully lit, slow motion, cinematic scenes in monochrome. The ducal, ruling family at its center is a thoroughly unsavoury and corrupt lot: A duke who is a poisoner. . . his legitimate son, a lecher. . . his duchess, an incestuous adulterer. . . his stepson, a rapist. . . his bastard son, the duchess' lover.
There are three families in this play, two of them connected by marriage. The duke and his legitimate heir, his son Lussurioso, and Spurio, his bastard. The duke is an absolute ruler, any challenge to his authority is met with the death penalty. The duchess, who has three sons, Ambitioso, Supervacuo and Junior from a previous marriage is from a lower class and is socially aspiring. Her sons speak with cockney accents to define their class. Vindice, the revenger, has a mother, brother and sister. They are poor but noble, not just of noble blood but noble in deed, but socially moving downwards. At the start of the play, Vindice's mistress has been poisoned by the duke because she would not succumb to him sexually. The names are great fun, Spurio's henchman is called Sordido. Vindice (Paul Moody) disguises himself as a chauffeur and, with his brother's help, plots vengeance for the murder of his mistress by the duke. Meanwhile the duke's heir tries to seduce Vendice's sister, still a child. The duchess' two sons attempt to arrange the death penalty for the legitimate heir and the release from prison of their full brother.
The ensemble cast of fifteen acts to the infectious beat of "trip hop" and the direction is at its best in the opening sequence and in a superb slow motion final shootout at a restaurant. Some of the performances are patchy, but the production is entertaining and certain scenes are memorably stylish.
The twists of the plot are satisfyingly complex even four hundred years after the play was written. Of course today it is hard not to laugh at the graphic and gruesome horror of revenge tragedy; for instance, when the duke is forced to kiss the poisoned skull of Vendice's mistress and staggers, foaming at the mouth.
The 1930s clothing, with its sharp suits, large brimmed hats and spats is authentic. The set design uses grey brick and stone effects and the addition of railings to shift from palazzo to prison. Dramatic lighting adds to the atmosphere of corruption. It all makes for imaginative staging.