Sunday, May 19

The Duchess of Malfi – Globe Theatre

For the Sam Wanamaker’s 10th anniversary season, we are treated to John Webster’s Duchess of Malfi. This beautifully clear and impactful performance modernised the themes to highlight the sexism and misogyny of men in power, lit only by candlelight and at one point plunged into darkness completely. We follow this tale with huge anticipation and energy: Francesca Mills as Duchess lights the stage with incredible generosity and spirit as she takes on this ‘young Widow’ to discover her new love in life. Passionate to find romance herself and not on her brother’s command. Her twin Ferdinand (Oliver Johnstone) shares the deepest connection with her and yet betrays her so suddenly when discovering her pregnancy. His rage from losing control of her sends him mindless and he loses his sanity. The eldest brother, Cardinal (Jamie Ballard) is cruel from the start, his misuse and abuse over women is degrading and disgusting. Running the show behind the scenes he is murdered by the very person he hired to do his killings. Bosola (Arthur Hughes) is our hired assassin and storyteller; their journey is dark to light starting as an unforgiving criminal to avenging the Duchess and killing the evil at its source.

Director Rachel Bagshaw makes a wonderful debut at the Globe with this performance. Their handling of the themes is powerful and moving. The contrast of the Duchess’ kindness and forgiveness combating a world in which women are so lowly valued is felt by the audience with rage and fury. In a scene where the Cardinal is mistreating his mistress, we see projected words he uses to degrade her on the wall behind as he manipulates her body to his desire. Once interrupted pushing her away as if a fly.

Throughout this performance, script is projected on the back wall. This is a fantastic addition not only for the audiences understanding but in Ferdinand’s fall into madness the words become distorted and artistic giving the second half a whole new depth to the scenes.

Adding to this, throughout there is a constant underscore of jazz music. Sometimes barely noticed and sometimes overwhelming bizarre and uncomfortable. This was fantastic. Joley Cragg (Musical Director) underscored this performance incredibly; the moments were lifted greatly by this music, and I thoroughly enjoyed this piece for its connection to sound.

This is one of the best shows I’ve seen at the Globe and would be a terrible shame to miss.

Playing until 14th April, performance times and tickets can be found HERE.

Reviewer: Alice Rose

Reviewed: 8th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.