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The Changeling - Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory 2004

'The company's "first excursion outside Shakespeare" proved rewarding and productive. The Tobacco Factory's flexible playing-space provided a fluid arena for this intelligent, uncluttered production of Middleton and Rowley's tragedy. Inventive use was made of the raised stage and spotlighting to suggest the numerous rooms and passages of Vermandero's castle. Played in the round, barred doors on either side of the auditorium doubled for castle, closet and madhouse. The Jacobean setting was created with period costumes and minimal props. 

The play's intense focus on the concepts of blood and honour, love and service, was fully revealed in the horror of the main plot. [...] The revelation this production offered, though, was the thorough, chilling  exploitation of the Rowley sub-plot set in the madhouse. This was due in large measure to Dominic Power's additional scene and dialogue which finds unexpected possibilities in these scenes. [...]

In this production the madhouse is a punitive schoolroom, evoked by the master's high chair, stool and liberal use of the whip. "Old Lollio", far from a comic buffoon, was played with a sinister combination of comedy and menace, spilling over into violence as he tries to have his way with Isabella. This highlighted his dramatic relationship to De Flores, and Isabella's to Beatrice-Joanna's, in a powerful and economic way. Both women, confined within repressive patriarchal structures, are driven to desperation, but whereas the knowing has her eyes open, the spoilt, wilful Beatrice-Joanna fails to understand the fateful implications of her choices.'

Jan Sewell, RORD 44 (2005), 138-9

'Andrew Hilton's production of The Changeling begins with the sound of a boy soprano singing a sanctus off-stage, and ends with the slam of Bedlam's grilles on each side of the auditorium. It projects from first to last the strange strands of this complicated play, showing a purity that is doomed to be corrupted, and a world in which anyone troublesome - argumentative wife or supposed madman - is likely to be locked up.'

Susannah Clapp, The Observer, 4 April 2004

'[A] world in which everyone was beautiful would be a world inadequate for human desire in all its compelling perversity. For ugliness has ways of making itself attractive, to both benign and malign effect. If it didn't exist, we would have to invent it.

We see that truth through the tragic journey of Beatrice-Joanna, who is played with just the right spoilt glamour and nerviness by Saskia Portway. This grandee's daughter needs to get rid of her fiancé, who has been secretly ousted from her affections by the dishy Alsemero (Rupert Ward-Lewis). So she resorts to hiring the aid of a courtier, De Flores, whose seething admiration for her is vividly captured by Matthew Thomas. He has a facial disfigurement, but the heroine's unconcealed revulsion at that is, in fact, suppressed attraction, for she sees the depraved side of herself reflected in him, and it is both fearful and exciting.'

Paul Taylor, The Independent, 25 March 2004 

Transfer to The Pit, London 

'One of the subtleties of Andrew Hilton's production is that this Beatrice-Joanna is no angel corrupted by the malevolent wickedness of the deformed De Flores. On the contrary, Saskia Portway's Beatrice is a spoiled little bitch, and Matthew Thomas's De Fores suggests a good man, at least until he seizes the opportunity to become involved with Beatrice-Joanna's murderous intent.'

Lyn Gardner, The Guardian, 30 September 2004  

'The play satisfies the Jacobean prediliction for the grisly, featuring a severed finger and a subplot in a madhouse, but Hilton succeeds in pulling the strands into a psychological drama. He emphasises the characters' frequent use of asides, so that the audience is sucked into their inner thoughts.'

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times, 8 October 2004

Photos

from www.arenapal.com   

Reviews:

Lyn Gardner, The Guardian, 23 March 2004

Paul Taylor, The Independent, 25 March 2004

Gordon Parsons, The Morning Star, 25 March 2004

Susannah Clapp, The Observer, 4 April 2004

Lyn Gardner, The Guardian, 30 September 2004

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times, 8 October 2004

Jan Sewell, RORD 44 (2005), 138-9