The engineered cliffhanger that ends the first half of this fast-paced, blackly funny production isn’t followed by a ‘duff duff’, but it could be. This is Jacobean tragedy via ‘EastEnders’ – and it works.
Thomas Middleton’s lurid, camp tale of a man’s elaborate revenge on the duke who murdered his betrothed is far more knowing than earlier, more earnest examples of its genre. Director Nicholas Thompson takes Middleton’s gleefully overblown script and produces a show as vivid as a streak of stage blood. The actors wink at (and occasionally flirt with) the audience, and it’s in keeping with a play that revels in self-parody.
The ’80s setting is chronologically fuzzy but thematically spot-on. Brick-like mobiles and banker-red braces capture the grubby greed of the lascivious ruling family; Duran Duran is the soundtrack of temptation in a world where money is happiness.
The cast have great timing, pitching their performances between wide-eyed fury and farce. Mark Field switches effortlessly from East End avenger Vindice to Piato, his character’s flamboyant alter ego; and Henry Regan demonstrates his versatility and comic flair as Hippolito, Vindice’s chavvy brother, and a Hugh Grant-ish Ambitioso, the duchess’s obsequious eldest son.
It’s crude, lewd and satisfyingly over the top – the real tragedy would be to miss this production, which rarely falls short of its mark.
First published by Time Out