The Jacobeans tended to rush in where Tarantino would think twice about treading, or rather wading in gore. More miserable sinners here than fools, but shocking misogyny: little old ladies dealt with ferociously and condemned brutally to death, yet murderers get off almost scot free… So does this sensational tale of unthinkable love which really should not speak its name, have much to tell us these days?
 
For a start, the split level set is marvelous, very simple but very clever, with Annabella’s bedchamber in a pit - more of a bearpit in the second half. Few quibbles, though an occasionally blurred time scale meant events proceeded at a disjointed pace. Costume, maybe 30s, with Noel Coward dressing gown, but Giovanni, if no model student, sporting a modern look, complete with lengthy scarf, which is more Dr Who (Dr What!? Or, as events turn out, Dr WTF?). Hugh Skinner does well with this difficult role, passionate and loquacious, if self righteous in protesting too much.

Nicholas Shaw (Soranzo) and Ken Bradshaw (Vasquez) match up in the villainous stakes, the latter having just the edge. And for all the ranting about women, at worst are foolish, they’re sympathetically portrayed. Emily Pithon’s Hippolita, striking in the face of much abuse, with humorous moments from the remarkable Eileen O’Brien, naïve, conniving Putana; the clue’s in the name), while Matti Houghton shines as Annabella, managing to be the picture of innocence throughout, upheld by her brave spirit.

Yes, indeed, ‘tis pity she’s a whore - and that the men are a right shower of… but if you want to know why, this relentlessly gripping play is an eye opener, and heralds another excellent season.

- Carole Baldock