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How to Curse

The Changeling (tour)

By • West End
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Jacobean tragedy inhabits the same world as Shakespeare. The overlap is more than a mere matter of time; the characters' concerns and how these are resolved are common to both. They are also often those of our own time.

The Changeling was first produced in 1622, fruit of a collaboration between Thomas Middleton and William Rowley. It tells two stories, one the mirror image and the flip side of the other. The first is resolved in blood, the second in reconciliation. Stephen Unwin's production uses Paul Willis' towering grey-stoned, metal-doored set for both the main story and the sub-plot. Mark Bouman's costumes combine 17th and 21st century elements.

Dominating the main story is Beatrice-Joanna, an aristocratic Spanish girl on the brink of marriage. When we first meet her, she is posturing in scarlet and black lace, an upper-class Carmen in the making. By the end, as she travels from infatuation through murder to adultery, she mocks innocence in white and this in turn is dyed red with her own blood.

Anna Koval, in her first professional theatre engagement, gives a beautifully nuanced performance, intelligently thought through and well spoken. You can believe in this girl. You may not like her, or even begin to understand her, but certainly you can believe in her.

The play is usually dominated by Deflores, the physically and morally scarred minor gentleman of her father's entourage, but Adrian Schiller builds from a low-keyed subservience to an acceptance of guilt and its inevitable consequence. Like his body and his times, he is out of joint.

Gabriel Fleary's Alonso having been disposed of, it is left to his brother Tomazo (Daon Broni) to exact retribution. Gideon Turner's Alsemero is played as much more than simply the man Beatrice-Joanna prefers to marry; he becomes the moral conscience of the entire castle.

In the subplot, the keeper of a lunatic asylum (Terrence Hardiman) unwittingly admits, as patients, two of the brash gallants from whom he is endeavouring to screen his much-younger wife (Marianne Oldham).

Our ancestors found entertainment in the antics of the deranged - the two plots meet at the point where the asylum inmates are to "perform" at Beatrice-Joanna's wedding to Alsemero. Geoffrey Lumb makes much of the quick-thinking youngster who pretends to be a fool - and then realises the pose's inherent dangers.

- Anne Morley-Priestman


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