The Changeling is probably the most schizophrenic piece of Jacobean drama extant; revenge tragedy always sails parlous close to the wind of black comedy, and the comic subplot/recapitulation of Middleton's themes by Rowley complicates matters further.
Director Michael Attenborough animates his subplot (David Westhead's Antonio commits himself to the asylum for love of keeper's wife Isabella – Emily Raymond) more than the main strand. His principals are, I'm afraid, too old for their characters – Cheryl Campbell and Michael Siberry do not convince as twentysomething lovers. As deformed machiavel De Flores, who dispatches his mistress's husband-to-be on condition that she becomes his mistress, Malcolm Storry is the more impressive for not avoiding the grim humour amid his looming grotesquerie.
Apart from entrances through the audience and madmen's capers, however, Attenborough's blocking seems elementary. Julian McGowan's design – Venetian blinds, huge lizards crawling up the stage columns and a flown-in crucifix – is striking, but it's intended to set off elements which are only palely present in the production.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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