Disclaimer: The opinions expressed below are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the company. As with all my insider reviews, call me biased if you want, but I wouldn't write about a show I'm working on if I didn't enjoy it.
It has happened again. Galleon Theatre Company have taken me completely by surprise with their latest production, The Duchess of Malfi. Despite having been partial to a number of planning conversations with Bruce Jamieson (the director) and Alice De Sousa (the producer), I was under the impression that we were doing a traditional, classical Jacobean tragedy. Even after the first read-through I still believed so. When will I learn that that is simply not Galleon's style???
The Duchess of Malfi, written by John Webster and first performed 400 years ago is of course a classic Jacobean tragedy, full of betrayal and murder, but though our production uses modern dress, it's direction is sensational enough that I believe it would hold the attention of its original audiences in 1614.
And tis a fitting bang with which the Galleon Theatre Company will be leaving the Greenwich Playhouse for good, dividing the critics and sending audience members fleeing from the auditorium in tears, hopefully a production we will be remembered for.
|Ferdinand and the Cardinal|
But of course the wilful and passionate Duchess will not be dictated to, and the ultimate result is the death of pretty much everyone, as one would expect from any Jacobean tragedy worth it's salt.
Bruce Jamieson's adaptation of The Duchess of Malfi as always cuts to the heart of a select few story lines, allowing the audience a much easier and dramatic journey through the story. Aided by Natasha Piper's modern day-ish costume choices it is made clear that many of the themes explored in the play are still more than relevant today.
|Cariola at the mercy of Bosola and Castruchio|
The company for this production have proven outstanding. We were lucky to have some Galleon regulars join us for this final show, as well as some brilliant new additions to the company. Charlotte Randell's minimalistic set design makes excellent use of the space with rich curtains enhancing the pretence of civility in the first half of the show, and the amazing painting on the studio's back wall as stark evidence that everything is crumbling to ruin in the second half. Philip Jones's lighting design starts bright and cheerful, growing gradually more shadowed and dark as the plot thickens. Jamieson's selection of music to underscore the action, expertly edited by Robert Gooch, sparks off and reinforces the emotion generated by the cast.
Bruce Jamieson is the only choice for the irreverent Cardinal of Aragon. Heavily tattooed and not adverse to a spot of BDSM, Jamieson's portrayal is bold and loud and has no problem using his societal position for his own purposes.
|Daniel De Bosola|
Alexander Neal, playing Delio, is another great addition to Galleon Theatre Company. Delio is one of those characters where you're not entirely sure what to make of him. Being Antonio's best friend you hope he's one of the good guys but his dealings and connections do make you wonder from time to time, and Neal gladly plays with this concept throughout. Ultimately, he is one of the hero's of the show, taking part in and surviving the final slaughter scene and it is his reaction to this that gives you a clear sense of his character. When all the violence is done with, reality hits him and he collapses, delivering one of the most poignant lines of the play.
|The Doctor and Castruchio|
However some of the best performances in the show come from three gentlemen with barely a handful of lines between them.
|The Cardinal's Men|
Their ominous and menacing presence keeps the audience on their toes. As the characters have no names, I hope it's clear that here I refer to the characters rather than the actors themselves. Alex you know must have been some bully's muscle at school, Phil has somehow ended up as the bitch of the trio, though he's no less scary, and Martin is the really quite creepy ringleader.
This, sadly, is the last production that will be produced and presented at the Greenwich Playhouse due to it's closure in April. At present we do not have a new home to move to. For more information on the closure, and how you can be of help please read the press release on the Galleon Theatre Company website.
The Duchess of Malfi is performing until March 18th at The Greenwich Playhouse. Tickets are available here.
All photo's courtesy of Robert Gooch.