THE MAID'S TRAGEDY
BAC (Battersea Arts Centre), London SW11
Opened 2 November, 1990

Amintor returns home to a marriage arranged by the king, only to discover on his wedding night that his bride Evadne is the king's mistress and their marriage is simply to conceal the affair. Tensions abound throughout the court, the pressure rises and, as usual, everybody gets killed including, for good measure, the woman jilted by Amintor before he knew what he was letting himself in for with Evadne. An everyday seventeenth-century tale of cuckoldry and revenge, but one that contains enough implicit assumptions about social status that it now plays as a critique of those attitudes: that it's wrong to kill a king whatever he's done, and that a woman's honour has bearing upon her menfolk but not herself.

A finely judged, ungimmicky production and a pair of precisely articulated central performances let these complacencies speak for themselves, but that's not always enough. Evadne's sudden remorse coincides with an unexplained transformation from a woman of strength and will to an hysterical puppy as she strives to do right by her husband and brother; Amintor's wronged ex disappears early and without resolution, popping up gratuitously cross-dressed at the close for the sake of a decent final corpse-count. But these in themselves are no more than another couple of questions about (literally) women's rôles, such as are constantly being asked here, and asked with intelligence and dramatic skill.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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