In truth, it's an exciting combination of factors that combine to ensure Nicholas Thompson's superbly original production of The Revenger's Tragedy, currently playing in rep with Henry V at the Old Red Lion, does exactly this.
The play's action is transported to 1980s Britain which highlights the timelessness of Middleton's themes and their affinity with modern times perfectly. The six-strong company, some of whom play more than one character, have a natural, effortless chemistry as an ensemble. This, fused with Thompson’s slick, insightful direction and sharp attention to detail against an inspired backdrop of neon light, throbbing synth soundtrack and ‘80s artefacts, makes for a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking experience as the Revenger (Mark Field) embarks on a tempestuous journey to avenge the death of his beloved at the hands of the barbaric Duke (Steve Fortune).
Each cast member has clearly worked hard to ensure that characters are believable and roles are inhabited without inhibition. The switch between different characters is breathtakingly smooth, particularly at the hands of Henry Regan, whose depictions of Hippolito and Ambitioso are so skilful it is hard to believe they are created by the same person. This often means that despite a plot that is challenging and a family tree that is complex and sometimes confusingly tarred with adultery and incest, the unfolding, fast-paced action is never too difficult to follow.
Mark Field creates a brilliant comic contrast between his earthy, brooding Vindice and extravagant, overtly sexual Piato, the latter of whom could easily be mistaken for Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Bruno’s brother. Jack Morris’ lust-ridden Lussurioso seethes with sleaze and is reminiscent of a slippery, amoral estate agent complete with cheap suit and jewellery. His death at the play’s end, however, is horribly painful and difficult to watch, cleverly forcing us to sympathise with a truly repellent character. The collective artistic maturity of Christine Oram and Steve Fortune creates an occasionally much-needed balance on stage and Nicholas Kime delivers a unique and intriguing Castiza, who is the play’s only true exponent of moral resolve and whose background and motivation are thrown open for interpretation.