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Dr Rebecca Bailey reflects on a memorable performance of John Webster’s ‘The White Devil’ at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Nicola, Sam, Beth and Jemma at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, November 2014.

English Literature Students and staff from across the Humanities enjoyed a gripping performance of John Webster’s ‘The White Devil’ at the RSC Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon Avon this week. Webster’s revenge tragedy swirls with multiple plots of betrayal and revenge to brilliantly interrogate the corruption of power, the tyranny of church and state, and the perilous position of women within early modern society.

Flaminio, The White Devil, RSC

The performance bristled with an electrifying energy, from the debauched dancing of the opening scene, to the pistol shots of the play’s climax, and the chilling laugh of the young Duke Giovanni as he callously kicked the pile of dead bodies which quite literally littered the stage in the play’s closing moments. Kirsty Bushell offers a commanding performance as Vittoria Corombona – sensual yet defiant, witty yet vulnerable – which proves an admirable foil to the powerful Cardinal Monticelso, whose ruthless menace is consummately executed by David Rintoul.

Vittoria, the ‘White Devil’, RSC

Questions remain as to whether the daring transformation of Flaminio (played brilliantly by Laura Elphinstone) from Vittoria’s brother to her sister works – it certainly has fascinating implications for the text as a whole. No doubt we will be discussing this on HM5302: Renaissance, Revolution, Restoration when we explore the text in seminar next semester.

Laura, Abigail and Natalie at RSC.

Personally, I thought this was a fantastic evening, reminding me of the compelling power of theatre to seize the imagination and probe the darker side of society with a ferocious intensity. It was a delight to hear the energetic student conversations about the performance on the coach home. And I’m already thinking about organising a return trip to Stratford in the spring -although, next time, perhaps a comedy! Watch this space …

For more pictures, go to our Flickr gallery.

Chloe, Hannah, and Luke at the RSC.

Watching The White Devil at the Swan Theatre: Cheri, Josie, Kris, and Niall.

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