Blue Elephant Theatre
The White Devil
by Lazarus Theatre Company
- Dates Tuesday 9 November - Saturday 4 December Tuesdays - Saturdays. Wednesday matinées: 4PM 17 & 24 November and 1 December
- Following a hugely successful production of The Duchess of Malfi at the Blue Elephant last year, Lazarus returns to John Webster to stage one of the finest and most complex Jacobean tragedies, The White Devil.
Vittoria, wife of Camillo, is consumed in a decadent and dangerous love affair with Duke Bracciano, husband to Isabella. Their intoxicating game of lust and sexual obsession leads to the destruction of the court and their own existence.
This passionate and tragic piece will be played by a large ensemble who - through the use of text, movement and music - create the debauchery and decay of the Italian court. The hunt is on for The White Devil…
Flamineo – Andrew Venning
Bracciano – Peter Wiedmann
Camillo – Christopher Mark
Isabella – Victoria Sye
Monticelso – Jonathan Leinmuller
Francisco – Sebastian Canciglia
Lodovico – James Billington
Vittoria – Hollie McGovern
Marcello – Tim Astley
Hortensio – David Tyrrell
Pedro – Andrew Leishman
Carlo – Danny Wainwright
Clara – Jen Holt
Anna – Nic Lamont
Bianca – Sophie Melissa Howard
Carlotta – Elaine Hartley
Directed and Designed by Ricky Dukes
Design by James Sheppard
Movement by Ria Whitton and Ricky Dukes
Assistant Director - Matthew Gould
Music and Sound Design by Sebastain Willan
Lighting Design by Heather Doole
Costume Design by Rebecca Mills
Costume Assistants; Jessica Roche, Vana Giannoula, Aurelie Vogt, Megan Keegan
Deputy Stage Manager - Lucy Neale
Assistant Stage Manager - Alice Grant
The White Devil at Blue Elephant Theatre
12 November, 2010
by: Naima Khan
The White Devil by Lazarus Theatre: a lesson in re-imaginings. *****
The new offering from Lazarus Theatre company, The White Devil, currently at Blue Elephant Theatre directed by Ricky Dukes, is nothing less than a superb lesson in how to adapt an old school classic for a contemporary audience.
The White Devil is the 17th century play by John Webster. It depicts corruption in the Italian courts, lots of illicit murder, sex and religion. But rather than plod on through Webster's wordy script, Dukes has kept its most necessary aspects and cut it cleverly.
The story follows the broke but proud Vittoria after she marries the weedy Camillo and falls in love with the suave duke Bracciano. She's accused of being a whore and faces a damning trial. An assassination or two later, there are more turbulent arguments and a suicide, all brilliantly choreographed and executed by a cast of sixteen.
In The White Devil, director Ricky Dukes resets the bar for fringe adaptations of classical texts. With the cast looking slick in decadent '50s garb, they move with dance-like grace to smooth opera, pumped with a heavy bass-line. The creative team behind this production should be congratulated for taking a huge risk in combining the classic and contemporary in this way and pulling it off with emotive flair.
The movement is the stand-out feature of this production. Rather than bore us with monologues, murder and predictable screams of pain, Dukes has his cast artfully mime assassinations to thunderous music – by the highly talented Sebastian Willan. It's a completely captivating technique.
Dukes also uses simple symbolism to make sense of a convoluted plot. The opening scene, for example, sees Vittoria being dressed in layers of finery only to be stripped of them at the end. To their credit, the cast has the audience utterly absorbed despite there being so many of them. Victoria Sye as Isabella, the spurned wife of the Duke, delivers an almighty hate speech with such conviction she makes a sweet character really quite frightening.
While the show isn't perfect – some lines are delivered too fast and wardrobe malfunctions need to be re-thought – this production deserves a huge audience.
The White Devil runs at Blue Elephant Theatre until 4th December.
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The White Devil
Venue: The Blue Elephant Theatre
Where: Inner London
Date Reviewed: 12 November 2010
WOS Rating: *****
Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews
The White Devil is set in Padua and charts the love and intrigue between Duke Bracciano and Vittoria, whose impoverished family and hails from Venice (a byword in English Renaissance theatre for vice). In order to marry his lover, Bracciano arranges the murders of Isabella and Camillo, his wife and Vittoria’s husband. However, it is Vittoria who is brought to trial by a horrifyingly misogynistic court.
The play is as much about class as gender conflict and casting the disgraced but noble Vittoria as a northern lass in a predominantly RP court is surprising and very effective. Hollie McGovern plays Vittoria with dignity and intelligence, refusing to become a victimdespite the unfairness of her fate. Ricky Dukes’ production owes much to Marianne Elliott’s Women Beware Women at the National earlier this year. Text is cut and replaced with action, which keeps the pace engaging but sacrifices plot and, perhaps, the tragic element of the play. The "La Dolce Vita" aesthetic (which was stunningly employed by Elliott) lends itself beautifully to the dark, decedent Italian court. Terrifically brooding atmosphere is provided by Heather Doole’s dramatic lighting design, Rebecca Mills’ sumptuous costumes and James Shepherd’s smoky, shadowy set.This is a stylish production, and visual tricks abound. This is at times effective and moving, as when Vittoria is stripped of her finery at the end of the play, but was at others irritating or distracting. I’m fairly sure I missed some important exposition while mesmerised by some slow motion conversations taking place in line with the action. There was a lot of slow motion - no one seems to walk at a normal speed. This stylish production of an intriguing, under-performed play is well worth checking out.
- Georgia Blake
The White Devil