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The Changeling

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
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The title is a complete misnomer. This is about half The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, mostly the Middleton half, all of it badly edited, thinly acted and appallingly spoken. You’d never know the play was a Jacobean masterpiece. It just sounds rubbish.

The bleeding remnants concentrate on the devouring lust and murderous love pact between the nobleman’s daughter Beatrice-Joanna (Fiona Hampton in a lacy black cocktail dress) and her father’s servant De Flores (David Caves, filling in between his Open Air Theatre Macheath and a new RSC Petruchio).

De Flores bumps off Beatrice-Joanna’s unwanted fiancé, cutting away his ring finger and stowing it in his shirt pocket, where it lodges stiffly like a second phallus.

He then seduces B-J on the grey filing cabinets and she in turn does a virginity test on her maid Diaphanta (Sophie Casson) so that she, the maid, can “stand in” on her rearranged wedding night to her once true love Alsemero (Rob Heaps)... De Flores has eaten into her soul and liver; she’s an accomplice to murder and a slave to rough sex.

Director Michael Oakley has conceived the bad and silly idea of playing some of the asides as voice-overs; which, if the verse were being spoken well, would have ruined it. It’s ruined anyway. And sometimes you don’t know whose voice you’re hearing. Not that you’d care if you did.

There is no sub-plot, no madmen, no jealous doctor and his wife, an important parallel story. It’s a complete travesty, which wouldn’t matter if it were at least well done on its own terms.

Designer Fotini Dimou has provided some striking lingerie and night wear, and everyone looks fairly good. Caves is a fine and muscular actor, and the Irish accent works well for De Flores. A few television screens suggest a surveillance theme that isn’t explored, but they are handy for a couple of seconds to illustrate the tour of the castle.

You don’t necessarily have to take the Goya route, as both Terry Hands and Richard Eyre, have done with this play, but a sense of time and place (17th century Alicante) or at least a sense of a mercantile seaport community with strict social hierarchies, is essential.


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