The Faction’s 2013 repertory season has much to live up to, but this first offering, a challenging and adventurous take on Schiller’s obscure Fiesco, not only the UK premiere but the English language premiere, bodes very well. It follows in the footsteps of the company’s award-winning production of The Robbers and award-nominated Mary Stuart, continuing their ambitious plan to stage Schiller’s complete works.

Fiesco is a republican tragedy based on the historical conspiracy of Giovanni Luigi Fieschi against Andrea Doria in Genoa in 1547, tracking the rise and fall of its protagonist as he finds himself at the heart of an attempt to overthrow a tyrant. A soave, wealthy young Count with a decadent lifestyle to match, Fiesco is suddenly surrounded by ardent conspirators who seem to want to herald him. However, each man has his own selfish goal, and Fiesco himself periodically grapples with his conscience as he tries to ascertain his own desires and motives. The action is fast-paced and complex and Schiller provides endless twists and turns, building layer upon layer of conspiracy and corruption.

This production, despite the Faction’s characteristic lack of scenery and props, is bold and colourful, director Mark Leipacher daring and inventive throughout. The disguise of the omnipresent, physically conspicuous Chorus during the first half with use of a variety of rubber masks and the doubling up of actor Gareth Fordred to depict both the aging Duke and his depraved, tyrannical nephew are enlightened, bold devices which work well.

Performances are excellent across the board, but particularly worthy of mention are Richard Delaney, whose Fiesco is consistently believable and engaging, Kate Sawyer who delivers an extravagant and crowd-pleasing portrayal of Julia, the unfortunate object of Fiesco’s feigned love-interest, and Anna-Maria Nabirye, who is beautifully emotionless and mercenary as the tragic hero’s side-kick and spy.

-by Helen Macdonald