|Olivia Williams in The Changeling|
Review Round-up: Cheek Get Change-able Notices
Date: 17 May 2006
Olivia Williams (pictured) and Will Keen star in Cheek by Jowl’s new production of Jacobean tragedy The Changeling at the Barbican Theatre. The company celebrates its 25th anniversary, and the start of a three-year residency with the Barbican, with Middleton and Rowley’s 1622 play in which a desperate heiress conspires with her deformed servant to murder her unwanted fiancé.
Many critics enjoyed the modern dress production - which saw the Barbican stage transformed into a claustrophobic, clinical environment - though some were not so convinced about the transformation of the central characters. The Changeling opened on 15 May 2006 (previews from 11 May) at the Barbican Theatre where it runs until 10 June 2006 before continuing an international tour.
Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com - In his five-star rave, Coveney declared that director Declan Donnellan’s staging “works brilliantly… using the vast Barbican backstage area to the full in a diagrammatic dance of sensual destruction, the cast assembles in religious solemnity, each character battened to a functional red chair. The suggestion is that they are all inmates of the asylum, though the subplot is played in a full glare of lighting; this suits the more transparent nature of the writing.” He found Olivia Williams to be “a revelation as Beatrice Joanna, her passions running out of control, her thoughts as vile as their consequences” while “Will Keen’s De Flores is her match and nemesis.”
Benedict Nightingale in The Times - “Olivia Williams… catches the dismay and pain of a character who becomes a sort of Iberian Lady Macbeth, and Keen is a very modern psychopath: casually ruthless, coolly go-getting, yet as ordinary as a bank clerk in his grey suit.” Nightingale described Donnellan’s production as “very Cheek by Jowl: modern-dress, lucid, pacy, and almost too austere. But I was held even by the silly subplot that’s usually attributed to Middleton’s collaborator, Rowley. And if Donnellan can make one laugh at rakes pretending to be madmen in order to seduce an old doctor’s young wife, something must be right.”
Michael Billington in the Guardian - “Madness, as much as passion, spins the plot in Middleton and Rowley's dark Jacobean masterpiece. And the supreme virtue of Declan Donnellan's Cheek by Jowl production is that the two qualities are virtually inseparable… What might seem an intellectual conceit is made manifest by the fine acting.” He particularly praised “Olivia Williams' wonderfully tortured heroine” and “Will Keen's excellent De Flores.” According to Billington, “the great moment comes when the inhabitants of both worlds join forces in a wild wedding dance that links love and madness, and suggests there is scarcely a cigarette-paper between them.”
Nicholas de Jongh in the Evening Standard - De Jongh, on the other hand, was decidedly unimpressed by the “psychologically blank, unilluminating modern-dress production”, in which, he felt, “the blanched, boring and sexually low-grade Beatrice Joanna of Olivia Williams is devoid of psychological insight. There are scant signs of what appals and then sexually enthrals Beatrice about her father's plain servant De Flores, whose facial blemishes were intended as symptoms of syphilis. Why should any woman, sacrifice a lover and husband – Tom Hiddleston's insipid blond Alsemero - for such a man?” Even still, “despite Donnellan's deficient production The Changeling still fascinates.”
- by Caroline Ansdell
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