There have been several exceptional productions at the Young Vic this year – After Miss Julie, Wild Swans, Three Sisters – but the first of them, Joe Hill-Gibbins’s revival of The Changeling by Middleton and Rowley in the small Maria studio, was the best of all.
Now re-cast and re-mounted in the main body of the theatre, it does not quite pack the same punch, nor is there as much red jelly and blood, as before. Ultz’s re-design has lost the intensity of the audience sitting, as in a corrida, behind plywood fencing.
But we are still assembled in austere, court-room fashion to witness parallel plots of deceit and possession that are gloriously entwined at the wedding feast, a pageant of fools and madmen driven to embrace all guilty parties in a quagmire of lust and longing.
There was something really alarming about Jessica Raine’s demure exterior as Beatrice-Joanna as her passion welled up inside. Sinead Matthews, no less compelling in the role, does something else altogether: she allows herself to become horrifying engulfed in self-indulgence and the brutal consequences of her own sensual urges.
And there’s an additional layer of sinister compliance in the watchful, well-controlled performance of Harry Hadden-Paton as Alsemero, the Spanish nobleman who is instantly cuckolded at his own wedding party, while Zubin Varla’s scheming and amoral De Flores exudes a wonderful, serpentine quality that slithers along the verse of the play.
Alex Beckett repeats his remarkable double of an apparatchik in both worlds, romantic and insane, while the company also includes fine and incisive contributions from Eleanor Matsuura as a lascivious companion, only too eager to participate in “the bed trick” and Alex Lowe as a jealous doctor in the madhouse.