The titular revenger is Vindice (Kinnear), who sets out to avenge the death of his betrothed after she’s poisoned by the lecherous and aging Duke of an Italian court. Adopting a variety of disguises to achieve his ends, Vindice uncovers deep-set corruption in the court, spreading even amongst members of his own family.
Despite ongoing debate over the authorship of the play (until recently Cyril Tourneur was credited), most scholars now attribute it to Thomas Middleton. It fell out of favour after the 1660 restoration of the theatres, but found popularity again in the 20th century, helped largely by Trevor Nunn’s 1965 Royal Shakespeare Company production, which starred Ian Richardson.
At the NT, it’s directed by Melly Still, whose previous production in the Olivier, Coram Boy, ran for two consecutive Christmas seasons (2005 and 2006) and transferred to Broadway. As well as Kinnear, the cast also features Elliot Cowan, Adjoa Andoh, Barbara Flynn, Peter Hinton, Jamie Parker, John Heffernan and Ken Bones as the murderous Duke.
First night critics commended Still’s combined modern and traditional production for evoking a “sumptuous swirl of punkish decadence” with the “raucous” DJ music adding to an atmosphere of “decadent loucheness”. Most also felt that leading man Rory Kinnear successfully captured Vindice’s “volatile mood swings and the final sense of futility of the serial killer”, although some believe the actor is a “better comedian than tragedian”. Among the supporting cast, the “sneering” Elliot Cowan and “murderously sinister” Ken Bones were a hit, as was Billy Carter who gave a “chilling variation on Iago” in the role of Spurio.
- by Theo Bosanquet