John Webster's Duchess of Malfi is a tragic thriller written around the same time as Shakespeare's greatest plays. It concerns the Duchess herself, who is a wealthy widow prevented from remarrying by her brother. She falls in love with a steward below her in class and marries him in secret, bearing him three children and eventually propelling all of them bar one into tragedy.
The cornerstone of this production is the luminous Eileen Atkins, who is not only beautiful and gracious as the Duchess, but completely believable as the lady heading for destruction simply because of an error of judgement. As her steward lover, Antonio, Gary Bond is vulnerable yet calculating - he's tempted by the Duchess not just because of her physical attraction but for her money too. He is as surely responsible for his own end as she is. And their scenes together have poignancy and truth.
Charles Kay and Michael Bryant round out the cast and are both brilliant - this is a clever play with modern relevance and is played beautifully here. Webster's words sometimes get lost in a muddy sound mix but the play survives and is triumphant. Presented in dress and sets contemporary to the time it was written, this is not for fans of more modern productions. But if you like plays from the period, and can appreciate the Duchess of Malfi for what it is, you'll like this version.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?