The Changeling, Young Vic | Theatre reviews, news & interviews
The Changeling, Young Vic
A revenge tragedy steeped in blood and brutal authenticity
The murder drama is a staple of television schedules. And for every Miss Marple or Rosemary and Thyme there are many more trickling from the Lynda La Plante vein, whose currency of gore, horror and perversion seem to suffer permanently from inflation. Yet there’s little even in the grim likes of Messiah to equal the Jacobean capacity for horror, for incestuous, libidinous, blood-lusting violence and moral decay – T.S. Eliot’s “skull beneath the skin”. Middleton’s The Changeling spreads its fleshy veneer thinly indeed, and in Joe Hill-Gibbins’ new production the grinning death-mask beneath is all too clearly visible.
The London stage is suffering from a touch of the Jekyll and Hydes at present; in one corner, with the kindly bedside manner and respectable cravat, are the farces – One Man, Two Guv’nors, Noises Off, A Flea in Her Ear – while brandishing a murderous cane in the other are the revenge tragedies – A Woman Killed with Kindness, Women Beware Women, and shortly both The Duchess of Malfi and Tis Pity She’s A Whore. It’s a striking divide, but while farce may smile and revenge tragedy may stab, both genres are surely driven by a common anarchic energy, subverting authority and order even as they appear to uphold it.
Alex Beckett’s grinning, gurning Lollio is a thing of glorious horror
Although lacking the inadvertent cannibalism or incest that headline other Jacobean tragedies, The Changeling has its own particularly sinister brand of violence. Middleton and Rowley lovingly trace the progress of Beatrice-Joanna (Jessica Raine, pictured below) from innocent to “a woman dipped in blood”, faking her virginity, seducing a man who repulses her and murdering her would-be husband Alonzo along the way. Yet it’s the subplot involving a jealous husband, a young wife and an asylum that provides the touchstone for Hill-Gibbins’s production.
Arranged in three-sided viewing galleries, the audience look down upon an all-purpose institutional space – folding chairs, a serving hatch and even some gym mats strewn around – our seats shaking to the rattling and shrieking of the incarcerated “madmen and fools” of this particular bedlam. Madness is all-pervasive here, and the divide between sanity and insanity is a predictably porous one. Uniting the worlds of the castle
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
All the garden's a stage for an appealing Shakespeare staging of romance and spectacle
The arts hold the key to our collective humanity
Melissa Bubnic introduces her new play about women working in a man’s world
A reflective, potent 'Henry V' leads theartsdesk's stage tips
Incoherent vision results in a (Mac)duff production
Michelle Terry anchors a reflective exploration of leadership and nationhood
Challenging one-woman play about first lady of Canadian politics Maggie Trudeau
Howard Jacobson's much-loved novel is coming to the stage. Simon Bent explains how he adapted it
Rarely performed Gorky play re-emerges as a relentless dirge
Mike Bartlett's ponderous Snowden drama is animated by an astonishing finale
A bewhiskered Martin Shaw barnstorms his way through an English classic
Dutchness, audio-jungle, dirty minds and Dunsinane at one of Europe's premier arts festivals