My Review: The Duchess of Malfi, Old Vic, 21 April

“I’ve secretly gotten married and have three children and my family will kill me if they find out…”

Been to see quite a few plays recently so have few reviews stacked up so this one is a bit late. When this play was first announced I thought this was one play I wouldn’t have an interest in seeing (the language and the plot didn’t appeal) so it was the subsequent 4 and 5 stars reviews that had enticed me.

A Jacobean play that’s boasters themes on class, power, greed, revenge, corruption, incest and murder, if set now it would be like watching a Jeremy Kyle or Jerry Springer episode.

The Duchess (Eve Best) and Antonio (Tom Bateman) (c) Old Vic
The Duchess (Eve Best) and Antonio (Tom Bateman) (c) Old Vic

The Duchess (Eve Best) recently widowed is forbidden by her brothers, the Cardinal and Ferdinand (who secretly lusts after her) not to remarry so that only them will have a share in her fortune. But she falls in love and secretly marries Antonio a steward at her court (boldly she is the one that proposes to him).

As the years pass she successfully keeps the marriage a secret along with the three children she has. But rumours start to fly around the court and back to her brothers. A spy is hatched to find out the truth, and thus the spiral downwards beings as the spy reports back, the brothers are enraged by her defying them and marrying below her class hatch a revengeful plan which ends with all their deaths…

The Duchess (Eve Best) and her brother Ferdinand (Harry Lloyd) (c) Old Vic
The Duchess (Eve Best) and her brother Ferdinand (Harry Lloyd) (c) Old Vic

Phew and that’s a quick summary. Set over five acts this is one play where you’ll not get bored or get lost in the language of the dialogue!

Cast of The Duchess of Malfi (c) Old Vic
Cast of The Duchess of Malfi (c) Old Vic

The production and acting was superb. If you can get a stall seat* I would recommend just to feel the intensity that the huge intimidating stage set brings, it’s large columns casting moving shadows. While sitting waiting for the play to start you feel like you’re in a big medieval church with mist and the smell of incense creeping over you, all adds to the eerie vibe.

Much has also been written about the death scene of Duchess and so I waited in anticipation for it to arrive and I was not disappointed.

One to catch for sure before in ends in June!

Rating: 8/10
Link: Old Vic

* Check out lastminute.com and whatsonstage.com for deals.

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