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I've seen quite a bit of Jacobean drama, both over the years and more recently, but I think the production at the Swan is one of the best, non Shakespearean, ever. I can't think why blood hasn't figured more frequently; danger of falling arse over head I suppose; but these were powerful and sure footed players.
They're focussing on roles for women, so in this Flamineo became Flaminea (Laura Elphinstone). Initially I feared a repeat of the roaring girl characterisation, costume, hairdo and reed thinness were identical. Not at all, rapidly Flaminea developed a brittle, chippy disadvantage which the gender switch supported completely.
Kirsty Bushell (see pics) was an uncannily different Vittoria. There's something compelling about her features, voice, accent, which was a fabulous match for her sister Flaminea; when they're alone on stage together you realize how rare it is to see two women in that position.
This is important because the level of misogyny in all these plays can be so off putting (in my view often regardless of interpretation). Indeed it wasn't absent here, Brachiano was brutal, Lodovico terrifyingly sudden in his violence; they were met and matched by the women.
Two very minor quibbles; I would have preferred the young Giovanni, son of Brachiano, to have been played by an adolescent rather than a child. It was asking too much for a child to make an impact amongst such powerful performances. The contrast between corruption and purity was lost to the contrast between strength and weakness: then my love of a double entendre (ooh matron) was thwarted when they substituted helmet for beaver in the text. 'My beaver poisons me' or something similar ~ don't have the text here ~ great line!
Anyway, I deliberately avoided reviews, so have no idea how it's gone down with the critics, but if you live in the UK, well worth seeing.
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