In a week where once again another actress speaks out about ageism in the film and theatre industry, I sat down in the cosy theatre of the Brockley Jack Theatre for the performance of the award winning Lazarus Theatre Company. I was there to see an adapted version of Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean play The Revenger’s Tragedy. A play written around 1606 is seen quite often on the fringe scene. And a play studied among A-Levellers. I have seen it a few times, but never studied it.
Adapted and directed by Gavin Harrington-Odedra, it starts promising enough, with a golden circle in the middle, moody music and fog, semi dark lighting designed by Stuart Glover. The ensemble of actors gather around the circle, all masked and dressed to the nines. First to enter the circle is Lewis Davidson who gives the opening speech as Vindice. Suddenly, a flashback. The music changes, being given a beat and in a physical theatre moment we get an eyes wide shut choreographed scene of orgy, rape and eventually murder. The person murdered is Vindice’s beloved Gloriana who is played by Alexandra Reynolds.
Ok I’ll try to be brief in telling the story. To be honest, everyone was around the same age ( I hope this is a compliment rather than the fact that everyone was indeed young) and apart from one, all men had beards and looked the same so it became confusing, not helped that The Circle was used, which reminded me of my acting lessons, where the centre of the circle is the focus. This was literally theatre in the round, sadly there were only three sides to the audience and a lot was played towards the side where no audience was sitting.
So Vindice wants to revenge the death of his beloved Gloriana, killed by the Duke (Tom Jobson) after refusing his advances. The Duke’s son, Lussurioso (Liam Steward-George), a bit of a naughty boy himself, asks Hippolito (Alex Di Cuffa), Brother of Vindici, to help him find a pander (A person who specialises in getting the opposite sex). Which is of Vindice’s best interest. With the help of his brother Hippolito they devise a revengeful plan and Vindice will be introduced as Plato, the Pander.
Meanwhile the Duke’s stepson, Junior Brother (Joseph Wakelin), is being accused of the raping of Antonio’s Wife. The Duchess’s son and daughter (originally two sons) Ambitioso (Alexandra Reynolds) and Supervacuo (Jamie O’Neill) vow to help their brother. The duke’s bastard son Spurio (Joe Mott) feels resentment due to him not being a legit part of the family and as a revenge sleeps with his stepmother the Duchess (Paula James). Lussurioso, meanwhile has the lust for Castiza (Elle Barnstead-Salim), who happens to be vindice’s sister. Disguised as Plato and under Lussurioso’s wishes, Vindice tries to convince his mother, the Duchess to prostitute her daughter to the Duke’s son. Get it so far? It gets more confusing and I think it’s time for an Eastenders final theme. If you want to find out more, head your way to the Brockley Jack.
Now the cast, the brave staging is well done, but having this complex piece done in just a circle with in my opinion, not strong enough performers has misfired. How can you, the audience, follow a 15th Century written play, if the actors have difficulties expressing their feelings in it and only understand half of what they are saying? Peter Cushing always had a prop, these actors had none. A director blocks the scenes, but here Gavin Harrington-Odedra had the actors cemented in the circle and most actors didn’t know what to do with their lower body, just moving their upper body and waving their arms around. The limitation of the lighting at the Jack Studio Theatre, had the actors stand in half-light, which made it all a bit unclear. There is a lot of side talking and it must have confused the living daylights out of the rest of the audience, I know it did for me.
All in all, this feels more like a student production than a professional production. Through it all though, you can hear the beauty and organism that is the written English language. And that for me was what made it worthwhile.
Review by Danny Reyntiens
Vindice, in disguise takes a position in the corrupt and decadent Italian court. His masquerade, a device to seek utter revenge for the death of his one true love, leads to one of the bloodiest and most violent Jacobean plays of all time. After all, it is a Revenger’s Tragedy.
Middleton’s dark and violent depiction of court life, lifts the veil on the true danger behind the decadence of the social elite. An all ensemble company brings this ravishing new adaptation to the stage through the use of text, movement and music.
The Revenger’s Tragedy marks Middleton’s Lazarus debut and our return to The Jack Studio Theatre after our triumphant productions of Iphigenia in Aulis in 2012 and The Merchant of Venice in 2013.
Cast and Creative
Vindice – Lewis Davidson
Hippolito – Alex Di Cuffa
Gratiana / Duchess – Paula James
Castiza – Elle Banstead-Salim
Duke – Tom Jobson
Lussurioso – Liam Steward-George
Ambitioso – Alexandra Reynolds
Supervacuo – Jamie O’Neil
Spurio – Joe Mott
Junior Brother – Joseph Wakelin
Antonio – Samuel Freeman
Other roles to be played by the company
Written by Thomas Middleton
Adapted and Directed by Gavin Harrington-Odedra
Lighting Design by Stuart Glover
Sound Design by Neil McKeown
Costume Design by Rachel Dingle
Dramaturge – Sara Reimers
Assistant Director – Ash Hardman
Stage Manager – Ina Berggren
Company Photographer – Adam Trigg
Production Graphic Designer – Will Beeston
The Revenger’s Tragedy
3rd to 21st March, Tue – Sat, 7.45pm
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH
Tickets £14.00, £11.00 (Concessions) £10 (Previews)
The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre