Saturday, 31 March 2012

caution, theatre spoilers ahead. mind you, the play is 400 years old

Violence in movies is one thing, but last night at the Old Vic I watched no less than seven characters be murdered, variously by strangulation, neck snapping, poison and old fashioned knifing.  Oh, and there were two hangings.  All in the second half of the Duchess of Malfi.

P and I sat, shellshocked, at the Anchor & Hope afterwards, drinking a calming carafe of wine.  Honestly, the realism of death, a few rows back, was shocking.  Themes of incest, feminism, romance across class lines, corruption,cruelty and betrayal seemed thrown into ridiculously sharp relief.  A lot for three hours. 

However, the script acknowledged it's own tropes and there were a few factors that made the play superb.   The set design was phenomenal and the scenes were beautifully lit.  Eve Best was outstanding as the Duchess of Malfi.  The players made death seem real from six rows back; the shocked silence was palpable.  A girl sitting next to me visibly recoiled as Ferdinand crawled up the bed towards the Duchess then swung his head to the audience.  There were hisses as, in the dark, we realised Ferdinand was handing her Antonio's severed hand; when the Cardinal violated Julia.  I thought the language a chilling delight; "mine eyes dazzle" caused a physical shudder.  Bosola's recognition of what we expected him to do was, for me, crisp clarity, tying many themes together.

I love the Old Vic; it has a kind of aged glamour and I think it feels intimate without losing any sense of big production.  We were spoilt enought to obtain very good tickets for a decent price through a connection, but the ticket prices at the Old Vic are fairly reasonable.  You can often find Last Minute ticket deals (that link has them starting at £15). 

Also, I must add to the chorus chanting that the Anchor & Hope on The Cut is wonderful.  Lots of tasty English treats in very nice surroundings.  It's true, I think; once you go South of the River you never go back!

So yeah, the work on the London bucket list is going quite well, thanks for asking. 

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