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
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