“Plagues! Confusions! Darkness! Devils!”
Technical difficulties around health and safety meant that Suba Das’ production of The Revenger’s Tragedy had to be rapidly reconceived from its intended promenade aspect but little can excuse shining a bright light into the eyes of part of the audience for 15 minutes. Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean blood-fest now sits still in the Victorian music hall surroundings of Hoxton Hall, but seriously lacks the basic thread of storytelling that such a complex play requires.
Vindice is determined to wreak a terrible revenge on the duke who poisoned his beloved fiancée and doesn’t care who get sucked into his machinations, whether it is the corrupt extended family of the duke, or his own (slightly) more innocent relations. This is a barely comprehensible world of deep selfishness, punctuated with episodes of extreme violence and illicit lust, and so needs a strong directorial hand to try and impose if not sense, then at least an interpretation of great clarity and focused intent.
Unfortunately, there’s a distinct lack of thematic continuity in the entire production as concepts are toyed with and then cast aside. Vindice’s initial role is almost of puppet-master as he controls almost every facet of the opening segment of the show but this is quickly forgotten as are the distorted video-screens and voiceovers; a dance interlude in the second half is awkwardly introduced and executed; Rachael A Smith’s design provides no real clues as to when this is actually set, the elusive impreciseness proving frustrating throughout.
A sense of atmosphere cannot be doubted and the second half begins to coalesce into something more effective as the hall is reconfigured into a chapel, it is also much shorter which leads to a strange imbalance to the evening as a whole. Tom Mothersdale does interesting work in bringing the whirlwind of Vindice’s vindictiveness to life, though could do with checking the sound level occasionally – indeed the entire production frequently bellowed at deafening volume and combined with the blinding spotlight, this proved more of a sensory assault than is acceptable.