THEATRE REVIEW: The Duchess of Malfi starring Lydia Wilson at the Almeida

WORTH A LOOK?: ****

WHERE? Almeida RUNTIME: 175 minutes (including a 15-minute interval)

WHEN? 2/12, press night 10/12, runs to 25/1/20

The Duchess of Malfi is a Jacobean revenge tragedy written in the 17th century by English dramatist John Webster that is unusual for having a female protagonist.

* Read on for reasons including what Olivier Award-nominated director Rebecca Frecknall brings to this

Our heroine falls in love with her steward Antonio and when her corrupt brothers hear of her second marriage, frowned upon in Italy although not England at this time, they throw themselves into a chilling plot to destroy her marriage and power.
Director Rebecca Frecknall first came to our attention with Summer And Smoke at this venue and yet we didn’t fall for her Three Sisters here earlier this year. This production, however, contains some of the best work of hers that we’ve seen.
Don’t return to your seat late after the interval because the audience is immediately plunged into darkness and there is a shocking visual reveal that had us jumping out of our seat.
Anyone wondering where the light box from the Almeida’s production of Hamlet had gone will find it back and front and centre here. We also appreciated the liberal smattering of black paint about the stage, on the light box and smeared by a child on a white dress to signify the heightened drama of the denouement.
It was so much better than something similar attempted by Simon Russell Beale at this very venue recently.
But this production is so much more than a stylistic triumph. Jack Riddiford in particular as the Duchess’s increasingly troubled brother is so good, particularly when morphing into a wolf, that we’d venture that his is one of the performances of the year and he’s definitely a name to watch out for in the future.

Leo Bill is always good value and we really felt for his complex servant de Bosola. Our heroine Lydia Wilson is returning to this venue after an Olivier nomination for her role in King Charles III and she convinces here as sensuous lover, doting mother and concerned sister.

Generous running times like the one afforded this production have to be earned and this spectacular rendition made us think, feel and reel in equal measure. It was so much better than we were expecting and singles out Frecknall as a must-see director.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Almeida. Tickets
  • Have you seen this show? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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