The Duchess of Malfi

John Webster

The Duchess of Malfi

Webster’s poetic masterpiece tells the dark and bloody story of the recently widowed Duchess as she struggles to retain strength and dignity in the face of death. 3.5 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
The Duchess of Malfi

Omniscore:

Location London
Venue Old Vic Theatre
Director Jamie Lloyd
Cast Harry Lloyd, Mark Bonnar, Tom Bateman Eve Best
From March 2012
Until June 2012
Box Office 0844 8717628
 

Webster’s poetic masterpiece tells the dark and bloody story of the recently widowed Duchess as she struggles to retain strength and dignity in the face of death.

Reviews

The Guardian

Michael Billington

I was struck by the restraint of Lloyd's production: the moment when the unhinged Ferdinand gives the duchess a severed hand is swathed in darkness ... At the same time, the production makes sexually explicit the incestuous passion of Ferdinand for his sister, and it is unafraid to show the reality of death: not since Hitchcock's Torn Curtain have I seen a strangling as protracted and plausible as the duchess's.

29/03/2012

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The Stage

Michael Coveney

The stage piles high with more corpses than in several productions of Hamlet and we are left, like the Duchess, thoroughly gob-smacked, garrotted and gasping for air.

29/03/2012

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The Daily Telegraph

Charles Spencer

Best’s great achievement is that she brings a warm, glowing humanity to a play that could easily seem just one damnable thing after another. As she falls for, and seduces, her servant Antonio, she combines unbuttoned sensuality with mischievous humour. But as her persecution by her sadistic brothers grows ever more horrific she discovers tragic nobility.

29/03/2012

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The Times

Libby Purves

The wonder of the play is that against the filthy darkness shines theatre’s most wholesome, heroic, high-spirited heroine. Eve Best’s Duchess is a perfection of laughing, blooming, sane maturity from her arrival scattering light to her defiant grief and dry humour facing death. She is dignified yet stridingly energetic, touching and humorous in her awkward proposal to the steward Antonio and laughing at her few grey hairs in fulfilled, tousled sexiness as she jokes with him and her maid.

29/03/2012

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The Sunday Times

Christopher Hart

Webster’s bloody portrait of sexual and political corruption so nastily entwined, too strong for a good century or more in the ­English dramatic reper­toire, makes a lot more sense again to us now, alas. The whole issue of honour killing, almost unbelievably, has returned to our shores after long centuries of happy absence. The surveillance society, the use of psychiatry and the manipulation of sanity as forms of punishment and torture are well known to us from Soviet Russia.

01/04/2012

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The Independent on Sunday

Kate Bassett

Jamie Lloyd has, however, failed to extract top-notch acting from other cast members, some of them woefully bad. Sporting a villainous quantity of eyeliner, Harry Lloyd's Ferdinand is criminally unconvincing. Supposedly guilt-maddened and poring over the Duchess's veiled corpse, he intones "Let me see her face again" with all the ardour of a bloke requesting a ticket to Willesden Junction.

01/04/2012

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The Observer

Susannah Clapp

At the beginning the cast glide around in masks – emphasising that the play again and again contrasts external glory and inner corruption. That device is dropped as the action unwinds but there is no great outbreak of passion. The lack of intensity is striking: it is as if everyone has had their insides evacuated.

01/04/2012

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The Evening Standard

Henry Hitchings

In many ways this is a traditional production, honouring its period setting. But its moments of gravity are signaled a little clumsily, and when it tries to be sexy it doesn’t satisfy.

29/03/2012

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The Financial Times

Ian Shuttleworh

The emotional and psychological tone of the production meshes well with the visual aspect, but it is the feel that needs to dictate the look. Snow falls onstage for much of the second half, but this should not be a cold play. Webster was perhaps the most willing of his contemporaries to take the risk of toppling his grotesque tragedy over into black comedy ... Lloyd and his cast never take the chance that we might laugh for the wrong reason.

30/03/2012

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The Daily Mail

Quentin Letts

What an oddly unbalanced drama it is. Were it a cricket match you might say the Duchess is back in the pavilion just after teatime. In director Jamie Lloyd’s interpretation, she greets her fate with such resilience that, in bidding that her maid look after her babes after her death, she sounds like a householder asking the neighbour to water the geraniums while she is away on holiday.

30/04/2012

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