(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/3.)

I've never seen so many actors come out of the closet as during Joe Hill-Gibbins's production of Middleton and Rowley's 1622 classic. But that is less a reflection on the performers' sexual orientation than on the expressionist nature of Ultz's design, in which the Young Vic's breezeblock studio, the Maria, is crammed with boxes, wardrobes and cupboards from which the actors constantly emerge.

At first, I wasn't sure how well this strange, semi-surreal approach would work with a play set in Renaissance Spain and reeking of evil: even the background buzz of noise was irritating, suggesting someone had left the radio on nearby. But I was won over by a production that, like Declan Donnellan's 2006 version, suggests madness is the play's real theme. There is something visibly berserk about Beatrice-Joanna's love-hate obsession with De Flores, whom she hires to kill an unwanted prospective husband. It seems natural that the actors in the main story should reappear in the truncated sub-plot, in which a madhouse doctor's wife fends off her own suitors.


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