Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Revenger's Tragedy - review

Written by: Alex Hiscocks (@alexislawl)

Hoxton Hall, London

Hoxton Hall is ideally suited for such a dark and bloody romp, but this rough-around-the-edges The Revenger’s Tragedy production failed to utilise this gift so that even its most poignant moments did not pack as much punch as you’d expect from the macabre Jacobean tragedy. 

The Revenger’s Tragedy follows in the same vein as every other in the genre: a young man, Vindice, seeks to avenge the death of a loved one, in this case his wife Gloriana, and in doing so manages to kill as many people as possible until the debt is settled. Throw in some semi-incestuous sub-plots and questionable sexual tendencies and you have The Revenger’s Tragedy! The original text has been condensed and abridged, yet here this was to such an extent that unless you had a good grasp of Jacobean linguistics, or prior knowledge of the play, you would be forgiven for missing key plot points.

The performance was carried extremely well by the protagonist, Tom Mothersdale, who played Vindice with fantastic charisma and style as he took us through the chaotic first half, hurriedly setting up all of the loose ends that needed tying up in the last portion of the show. Sarah Ball as Gratiana made the most of her limited time on stage and showed that, if given more stage time, she could have really come into her element. Bridgitta Roy and Chris Jared as The Duchess and Spurio respectively, excellently portrayed the incestuous undertones leaving members of the audience cringing in a darkly delightful way as their short scenes unfolded.

Unfortunately it was the key elements during key scenes that really fell limp, and frankly seemed under rehearsed. The crux of Vindice's vengeance, the death of his betrothed, was poorly executed through the use of video on televisions scattered about the stage, which made missing the point all too easy. The sound and lighting of the show seemed to be running consistently out of time, both with each other and the performers; swift asides from the cast were jarring instead of slick as the lighting was late to change on several occasions. The pivotal end to the first act was marred after a blackout, which didn’t quite come off and led to the audience bearing witness to the viciously murdered Duke miraculously standing and promptly leaving the stage to much surprised laughter.

It’s a shame that these technical elements really missed the mark. The second half of the show, which saw the hall transformed into a church, was extremely fluid and effective mostly due to the lack of complicated sound or lighting cues. It was the climax of the whole evening that really summed up the performance: a blackout and gunshot that were so painfully out of sync that the audience and cast were left in the darkness and silence, until the shot blasted out seconds later to finally provide a merciful finish to the show. 

This production runs until 10 November 2012. 

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