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Luke Williams, third year English Literature student, whose dissertation explores revenge tragedy, reviews ‘The White Devil’.

The current RSC production of John Webster’s The White Devil is something to behold. Maria Aberg’s dramatic reimagining of this classic revenge tragedy really brings the text to life.

By modernising the setting and costume of the play, the decadence of a seventeenth-century Jacobean court was wonderfully captured through its night club atmosphere. Furthermore, the metatheatrical feel of the production brought certain aspects of the play to the fore. The fact that Vittoria’s costume changes were often performed in front of the audience gave the events that followed a certain sense of inevitability, particularly in the last act. Alongside this, the almost Brechtian projections and glass enclosed space to perform plays within the play added a gloriously modern feel to Webster’s classic.


Flaminio, RSC Stratford

Other innovations however I was more sceptical of. Vittoria’s brother Flaminio was made into her sister, played by the wonderful Laura Elphinstone (pictured above). Whilst the part was played well, I did feel that often I was being forced to think of the gender issues in the play at the mercy of other equally important themes such as the role of justice in a corrupt society.

Although, having said that, when Flaminio uttered such misogynies as ‘Women are like cursed dogs, civility keeps them tied all daytime, but they are let loose at midnight; then they do most good or most mischief’, which would be awful enough if spoken by a male, seemed even more intentionally abhorrent coming from a female mouth.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable production and well worth seeing. I look forward to comparing this with John Ford’s Tis Pity She’s a Whore when I see it in December at the Sam Wannamaker theatre in London.

Luke Williams at RSC, Stratford-Upon-Avon

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