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Theatre review: The Revenger’s Tragedy at the Old Red Lion Theatre

15:48 17 August 2012

The Revenger's Tragedy at the Old Red Lion Theatre. Photo by Richard Davenport

The Revenger's Tragedy at the Old Red Lion Theatre. Photo by Richard Davenport

©Richard Davenport.

Highly enjoyable take on the Jacobean satire transposes the action to the 1980s

Following last week’s innovative version of Henry V that launched the Red Lion Theatre’s repertory season, the same actors return to perform an equally reinvented version of Jacobean satire The Revenge Tragedy, accredited to Thomas Middleton.

The black comedy is a story of lust and ambition, and has been updated from the Elizabethan court to the heady days of the 1980s.

Nicholas Thompson directs this story of moral corruption as we are asked: does nothing ever change? With a world obsessed with wealth and fame, riots on the streets and a morally bankrupt government, the similarities are obvious.

Society is broken, corrupted from the top-down, and sex, money and fame is what drives people to action in a time of economic inequality, famine and industrial disasters.

This is a corrupt universe where the desire for justice is confused with the obsession for revenge: an orgy of power struggles, popularity contests and bunga bunga parties.

Vindice, who carries with him always the skull of his fiancée, murdered by the Duke, seeks revenge for his lost love. His quest leads to a tale of incest, murder and rape, interspersed with a soundtrack of new wave music.

The unlikeable characters Vindice encounters each have their own agenda, and the nightmare of revenge soon descends into a bloodbath.

The six-strong cast perform multiple characters throughout. Nicholas Kime is particularly versatile, as a stepson, a bastard son and best of all as the aerobics fanatic virgin sister Castiza.

Mark Field plays a hilariously styled camp killer amongst others, and Jack Morris further acquits himself as a hideous, strutting villain with a suitably over the top performance.

The story borders on the absurd, but there is plenty to laugh at in this highly enjoyable performance.

* The Revenger’s Tragedy is at the Old Red Lion Theatre in St John Street, EC1, until September 29. Call 0844 412 4307 or visit www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk

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