Antonio Buero-Vallejo's depiction of the tensions between Francisco de Goya and King Ferdinand VII turns on "immersion effects": we see and hear from the painter's point of view. As he was deaf, this means dialogue scenes with him are silent and signed, punctuated by the aural hallucinations which plagued him (at one point his mistress and his daughter-in-law begin arguing in farmyard noises).
Jan Blake's remarkable set incorporates three crazily kiltered slide screens onto which are projected details from the "Black paintings" with which Goya covered the walls of his house, and an under-stage netherworld from which emerge the deformed figments of his imagination. This astounding vision is let down by acting which sadly mirrors the (overlong?) script's bias: other than Goya and his housekeeper/mistress Leocadia, there are no substantial characters, and none of the supporting cast overcomes this lack. An audience has to work to keep itself engaged, and it's a great pity that it isn't always up to the job.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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