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A review by James Buxton for EXTRA! EXTRA!



Tom Powis & Emily Vaughan-Barratt for The Production Works present


The Changeling


by Thomas Middleton & William Rowley


Director: Michael Oakley


Designer: Fotini Dimou


Sound Designer: Jamie Flockton


Lighting Designer: George Bishop


Video Designer: Cate Blanchard


Casting Director: Daisy King


Southwark Playhouse


3 – 26 Nov 2011



The Changeling could have been the abandoned love child of the Macbeths, for Middleton and Rowley's play share similar themes to those the Renaissance audience so relished. Murder, sex, revenge, they're all here, but it's real parallels lie in the likeness between Lady Macbeth and Beatrice- Joanna  (Fiona Hampton). For both plays depict a ruthless woman's machinations and manipulations of men as the central driving force of the drama. They are the perpetrators of tragedy and inevitably the victims of their own malice. Oakley's version of The Changeling however, takes a slightly different angle, for rather than portraying De Flores (David Caves) as the repugnant servant he is made out to be in the original, Caves' De Flores is tall, dark and handsome with bulging biceps and a lacklustre scar to boot. No matter how hard he grovels and bends on his knees, we cannot imagine him as the ugly, creature of sin Beatrice's lines make him out to be. Rather, it is his disarming intensity and charisma which actually make him more attractive, to the point of giving Beatrice's new love, Alsemero (Rob Heaps) a run for his money.

The action takes place in Beatrice's father, Vermandero's (Jonathan Benda) castle. Beatrice is engaged to marry Alonzo de Piracquo (James Northcote), but when she lays eyes upon the dashing, young, Alsemero, she throws cautions to the wind and plots to extricate herself from her arranged marriage immediately. Beatrice hatches a plan to enlist the help of her animalistic foot servant and CCTV operator, De Flores, a creature possessed with carnal desire for her. In a ploy to kill two birds with one stone, she asks De Flores to kill Alonzo, hoping he will flee after the murder and thus pave the way for her union with Alsemero. However De Flores cannot be bought with her money; he demands a much higher price for his deed.

Dimou's set design is spacious, placing the action in De Flores vault, however it is the use of   Blanchard's CCTV monitors which really adds an unsettling quality to The Changeling. The CCTV images have a powerfully hypnotic quality, acting as extensions of De Flores’ control and obsession with Beatrice. Combined with Flockton's disconcerting sound effects, the play is enveloped in a dark atmosphere of control and paranoia. Skittling, metallic noises scythe across the stage as Bishop's pale lighting fades into shadows. The bare bricks of the tunnel illuminated white, take on a ghostly quality as the agitating sounds of trains rumble past, coincidentally appropriate.
All the acting in The Changeling is top class but it is King's casting which may raise a few eyebrows, for despite Cave being an excellent actor, he is just too good looking to be De Flores.
This is a shame really because he conveys great intensity and presence. It is clear that Oakley wants to take a different angle and create a modern De Flores, but Beatrice's transition from absolute loathing to sudden rapture towards him during a rape scene is just totally unbelievable. Hampton's Beatrice is an expert manipulator - in a low cut black dress she dominates the stage with measured, purposeful movement. Yet once she is trussed up for marriage, her shocked and frozen body language suitably reflects the inner anguish she undergoes. Heaps, as Alsemero is good and conveys a strong range of emotions as the lover who discovers her deceit.

Oakley's use of voiceovers to maintain the asides works very well and allows the characters inner workings to be expressed in a modern manner without them intervening in the action and making it seem 'theatrical'. Oakley states The Changeling has to have the most asides of any play from the Renaissance and his voice over technique definitely carries with it a film-noir flavour that aptly reflects the content. All in all, this fast paced, modern re-imagining of The Changeling which cannot be faulted technically, as video, sound and lighting all contribute perfectly in evoking the unsettling mood of this twisted play. The acting too is of a very high standard, with Caves imposing presence lurking in the shadows, standing out as one to watch.

It seems unfair however, to criticise a play for being miscast, as all the actors cannot be faulted for their efforts, it's just unfortunate that De Flores wasn't as repulsive as Middleton and Rowley describe him in the text. Oh and by the way, did I mention that the entire sub plot has been cut!?


Southwark Playhouse
Shipwright Yard,
(Corner of Tooley St & Bermondsey St)
London SE1 2TF
7.45pm Mon-Sat
3.15pm Sat matinees
Tickets £10, £15, £20
Box Office: 020 7407 0234



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