The Changeling

Written by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley

Directed by Jackie Maxwell

High Speed Havoc is how Jackie Maxwell described her production of The Changeling. And high speed it was! As with the only other Middleton play we have seen (The Revengers Tragedy), the play moves along at a very fast pace. Characters arrive and depart. Plots arise and change. There are actually two plots, although I have to confess I never did figure out what was going on between Antonio (Gareth Potter) and Isabela (Jessica B. Hill).

The main plot was the usual story. Beatrice Joanna’s (Mikaeal Davies) father wants her to marry one man. She wants to marry another. She enlists help from a servant she hates to have her father’s candidate murdered. De Flores (Ben Carlson) demands sex in payment. She complies, but then has to figure out how to be a virgon on her wedding night. Enter the maid servant Diapahnta, (Ijeoma Emesowum), who agrees to sleep,with Joanna’s hisband Alsemero (Cyrus Lane) on her behalf. She enjoys it too much and has to be eliminated. More murder.

The overall experience was interesting but to me unsatisfactory.  I went home, not sure who did what, why. And I had nomidea whomThe Changeling was. According to the program, it was Antonio. But the actions of the characters leave the title open for anyone to claim.

The play was set in Spain, updated to the Spanish Civil War era. I am not convinced that this added anything, or detracted. But the costumes were easier for people to move around!

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About cathyriggall

Theatre junkie, who thinks live theatre is the ultimate form of living on the edge. You never know what will happen when an actor steps on the stage.
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One Response to The Changeling

  1. keithhpotter says:

    Well, I don’t think the pace was fast enough. The production of The Revenger’s Tragedy that we saw was much faster and sharper; it left you breathless, so you didn’t think much about the language.
    This time around, there was time to listen and you realised why Middleton and Rowley were inferior to Shakespeare. Shakespeare used just as conventional plots, and some plays have as big holes in the plot, but he tends to have more rounded characters, less conventional views of situations and has turns of phrase that make you forget about plot weaknesses.
    Without those skills, the plot is much more front and centre here. In this case, two plots. Quite often Shakespeare has a subplot that illuminates the main plot by being a funhouse mirror version of it. I think that was the idea here, but the two plots just sort of ran parallel, without either adding to the other. The subplot was simplified, by conflating the madman and the fool, but just served to provide some physical comedy to offset the darkness of the main plot – which I am sure worked better when a visit to Bedlam was considered a fun night out.
    So, I didn’t think much of it, overall. Nevertheless, the cast (again) was excellent; particularly Ben Carlson’s De Flores. And I also enjoyed Tim Campbell as Lollio.
    I like the idea of being able to see work by Shakespeare’s contemporaries, but I think making them effective today, and not just museum exhibits, is a real challenge for directors, and I don’t think that challenge is met here.

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