The kind of play I do NOT like, Gentle Reader, is the kind where the actors seem to be enjoying themselves more than the audience. You know which kind I mean? The Shakespeare-by-the-Sea kind of play, with actors prancing around saying “oh look at us, how marvellously clever we are, this is so cool” where in fact, it is not, they are not, and this play is boring and incompetent.
Not so the Duchess of Malfi, produced by Villain’s Theatre. Oh how my soul was parched for a real play, with real words and lines and plots, a real drama delivered by real people! How amazing to go to a play in the North End of Halifax, in a shabby little black pit called Bus Stop Theatre, and suddenly set foot in a real, amazing play. To see actors who are actually acting out an amazing play and not some ironical modern bastard version of it. The real deal, the real McCoy.
For a play known for its blood and gore, there was surprisingly no blood on stage, and that is basically my main criticism. The severed hand was disappointingly plasticky. Antonio wasn’t as blindingly handsome as one would have hoped- here is a man, after all, who leads a woman to risk her life to marry him. He wasn’t just a nice guy. But these are mere quibbles. The actors knew their lines, knew how to recite 16thC drama, and were well able to bring the horror to life. Bosola in particular was spectacular- the spy-turned-assassin-with-a-conscience outshone his colleagues who were portraying more one-dimensional characters. His delivery was effortless, as if he spoke in Renaissance verse every day of his life.
More of this please, oh wise people, whoever you are, who make plays happen. More of this, and less of the cackle.
picture from The Chronicle Herald, 24 February 2015