The Revenger's Tragedy

The Bridewell (Fringe)

Maddy Costa

Present Moment TC perform centuries' old plays as if they were written yes-terday. The approach paid off handsomely last year with their swaggering, ebullient production of 'The Country Wife'. Their gangland reading of 'The Revenger's Tragedy' is more problematic. Partly this is down to the play, which is painfully unsubtle. There are no prizes for guessing the kind of people Vindice, Lussurioso and Ambitioso are, and it's to Paul Moody, Justin Brett and Arthur Caulfield's credit that they are at once caricatures and believable. The play's attitude to women is laughable but abhorrent; they really are either virgins or whores. When the anonymous writer says, 'men are not comparable to them', it's not meant as a compliment.

Director Joss Bennathan takes inspiration from film noir, to mixed effect. It looks good: Jens Cole's spare set is murkily lit by Guy Hoare, whose knife-edged shadows are as crisp as the sharp suits in which Caroline Bird James has dressed the men. Bennathan creates some stunning, cine-matic vignettes; a death scene is particularly startling, the violence unfolding in a silent, spellbinding, slow-motion reel. However, the comparison with cinema also ensures the production's downfall. The film noir audience is almost always on edge, rarely able to predict what the had guys are going to do next. Here, the characters are constantly confiding in the audience, who struggle to follow the acts of revenge as easily as the perpetrators. Or Bennathan, for that matter, whose precise, funereally paced production does little to counter the play's weaknesses.


- 2000 Time Out

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