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1985contact

'A bold, thoughful production, faithful to the spirit of the play if not to its every detail.

The set contrived to give a sense of locality while reproducing the stagings conditions of a late Jacobean private theatre. The rear facade was a castle wall with a central double door and a single one on either side. An upper stage, flanked by two more doors with stairs down, ran behind a row of twelve square windows which served both as the battlements of Vermandero's castle and as cubicles for Alibius' lunatics. Much locking and unlocking of these doors went on in both plots, underlining the links between them and the heightening feelings of entrapment, secrecy, and suspicion. The apron stage was bounded by a crenellated border, its only fixed feature a grill-covered trap.

The approach to the text was less conservative [...] larger changes were compelled by the use of company of only nine, or by a desire to make the two plots more overtly interdependent. The invasion of the madmen in III.iii, "some as birds, others as beasts," was cut, as was Pedro, the main plot's Diaphanta delivering Antonio to the madhouse and speaking Pedro's lines. With one actor doubling as Vermandero and Alibius, Alibius' speeches were moved or re-assigned whenever the text has them on stage together.

The director introduced several telling effects and images. The noise of the sea, whose call Alsemero fatefully ignores, faded out during the first scene and faded in during the last, poignantly recalling the play's beginning in its end. Another governing symbol in the form of a bloodstain was supplied by the killing of Alonzo, the productions' most riveting scene. Rather than running him through, as the text subsequently states, De Flores slowly and methodically cut Alonzo's throat, drenching himself and the stage with blood as he did so. The change pointed up the re-ordering of the main-plot situation in the subplot scene which follows, where Isabella, repelling Lollio's attempt at sexual blackmail, promises him that Antonio's "injunction/ For me enjoying, shall be to cut thy throat." A large bloodstain remained in view for the rest of the play, to be concealed only when the guilty couple's corpses lay across it at the end.

Of the two protagonists, Beatrice took care to demonstrate an unquestioning belief in her own rectitude, turning away to cross herself as she prepared to pantomime innocence in the virginity test, and breaking out of the inner chamber to give the disabused Alsemero a stinging slap for the sexual innuendo he employed when urging De Flores to "get you in to her, sir." A similar robustness marked her dealings with De Flores. [...] In the last act loathing became fierce loyalty. Shut away with De Flores, her cries sounded more orgasmic than stricken [...] and dying after him on stage, she cradled and kissed his body and was racked by an unbearable agony of loss.

De Flores was brilliantly done. A bitter, driven figure, marked by a blood red stain across half of his face and seemingly on fire within, he combined malevolence and erotic mania with moments of naive devotion, which were positively touching.'

R. V. Holdsworth, RORD 29 (1986-1987), 64-5