|Paul Benton Reviews The Duchess of Malfi At Putney Arts Theatre|
A gory story of persecution imprisonment and misogyny written in 1613
The Duchess of Malfi is a Jacobean tragedy, a gory story of persecution imprisonment and misogyny. A tangled web woven by men trying to control female sexuality. The Duchess tries to live her own life according to her own passions and is savagely punished for it by the violent patriarchal society.
The Duchess, a widow, a woman of strong mind and sprit has her desires quashed when they come into conflict with her two brothers patriarchal rigidity, her twin and her brother the Cardinal. The Cardinal is motivated by wealth and status whilst her twin, Ferdinand, is driven by an incestuous obsession and suggests she should live her life in seclusion and respectability. However, the Duchess secretly marries her Steward, Antonio and together they have three children before the deception is exposed by Ferdinand’s loyal servant, assassin and spy Bosola. The ramifications for all and especially the Duchess are severe. Those ramifications are motivated themselves by the obsessions of jealousy, madness and honour.
The Director Jaz Manville’s aim in staging this play was to focus on themes of power and inequality in a modern setting. This aim is realised with some very strong performances from the lead actors playing The Duchess, Ferdinand and Bosola and the excellent ensemble cast.
The set designer Cat Fuller has successfully created an environment that depicts the dark side of human conscience, complete with an industrial stylised set and live projections onto walls. The production is greatly assisted by the clever use of atmospheric lighting and creative sound that facilitate a totally immersive experience into the theme of power and its consequences.
This classic production is an excellent addition to the current run of productions at Putney Arts Theatre.