first night

The Revenger's Tragedy

Kate Wilkinson gets her fill of blood from 3dtc's production of 'The Revenger's Tragedy'


The authorship of The Revenger’s Tragedy is uncertain although the play is widely attributed to playwright Thomas Middleton. However, whoever wrote it was a sort of Quentin Tarantino of the Jacobean era, combining bloodthirstiness with macabre humour. We follow Vindice on his quest to revenge the poisoning of his wife by the lecherous Duke because she refused to sleep with him. Meanwhile, narrative strands of incestuous adultery and lustful plotting entangle themselves in Vindice’s tale. Miscommunications and mistaken murders abound and the play ends in a bloodbath typical of the Jacobean revenge tragedy.

3dtc have done a good job bringing this play to life and deliver a lively yet composed production. I thought the minimal set worked well and director Nikki Todhunter allows the script to speak for itself, striking a good balance between inventive flourishes and truth to the text. The costumes were quite a transformation from the men-in-tights period costume you might expect from the era; instead we have… well I’m not really sure but if I had to give it a name I’d say 80s neo-gothic. On top of this we have a distinctly modern musical soundtrack so the contextual setting of the play was a little unclear. Though incoherent, the play certainly had an aesthetic of its own which worked especially well for the villainous characters. Personally, I have always had a penchant for men in lipstick. Perhaps a more retro soundtrack would have been better, but to be honest it didn’t really matter as I was quickly absorbed by the action of the play.

The large cast performed well together and avoided an overly camp treatment of the play’s dark humour and melodramatic ending. A few first night jitters may have caused a few lines to be fudged but this was dealt with well; the cast maintained poise and confidence throughout. The complex and imagery-saturated lines were generally well-communicated.

Edward Cherrie was engaging as the malcontent Vindice and maintained high energy throughout his many lines. He alternated well between Vindice’s dry sarcasm and full-blown rage.  Nikhil Vyas gave a generally solid though rather reserved performance as Hippolito, Vindice’s brother, and the chemistry between the two could have been greater.  Michael Earnshaw as Supervacuo and Lewis Picard as Ambitioso made a fantastic comedy double act, not only because of the comical height difference. The conniving duo provided much of the humour with their hopeless plotting. Frederico Mollet embodied Lussurio, the Duke’s lusty and corrupt eldest son. His physical languor expressed Lussurio’s arrogant complacency. Mollet’s limp gesture of his outstretched bejewelled hand encapsulated the essence of his character.

Phillipe Bosher was truly creepy as the evil Duke. His murder scene was a particular highlight and Bosher’s physicality made for an engaging spectacle. Iaian Stewart and Pegah Moradi were an uncomfortably close incestuous couple as the Duke’s bastard son and his step-mother, the Duke’s wife.  The pair played well against each other and had perhaps too much chemistry. The Revenger’s Tragedy is a play full of villains and it was great to see each one try to out-villain the other. I have come to the conclusion, however, that they are all as bad as each other- and I suppose this is rather the point.

Shining the light of chastity and honour into the dark play was Alison Middleton as Vindice’s sister Castiza. Both her and Georgia Cassarino as her mother gave engaging performances.

3dtc have demonstrated the lasting power of this Jacobean play and with only a few reservations,  I think this production of The Revenger’s Tragedy is one not to be missed; the cast certainly deserve some fuller audiences for their next few night’s performances. 

6 December 2013

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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