The Revenger's Tragedy

"I am past my depth in lust and I must run or drown," observes the Duke's evil son, uttering a sentiment that Shakespeare uses at least twice in different contexts.

That utterance speaks for Cyril Tourneur's Jacobean tragedy, a morality crossed with the most horrific of revenge plays, which has reached London well over three years after it was first revived at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Here, certainly, Stratfordians have no reason to complain of the Aldwych demands.

With this production Trevor Nunn established himself; and it reappears superbly now, in a treatment that seems to be even more elaborate. One remembers the swirl of black and silver - in Christopher Morley's designs - against the sable setting, though in London now torchlight cannot make an artificial noon about the court.

Again the piece comes to us as a livid nightmare, an uncompromising exercise in the tragic-ironic, with a high casualty list and much haunted verse, rising marsh-lit from a world of corruption. In this Renaissance palace there is "gunpowder in the court, wildfire at midnight." Tourneur surges through his plot, fearlessly inventive in violence. It ends in the masque of skulls, with more multiple murder and Vendice's proud boast, "We die after a nest of Dukes."

He is the complex revenger whose self-disclosures of his "well-managed" crimes takes him and his brother to their doom in Tourneur's bitterly ironic reversal. Ian Richardson had a long ovation last night..................

Several players help to bear the charnel-house ritual. Alan Howard repeats his study in arrogant evil, a performance by an actor of sharp visual sense; David Waller is, brazenly, the elder Duke whose death is one of the more agonising; and it is pleasant at the end to observe Clifford Rose as the man who may bring some stability to this tottering state. I have always liked the direction for his appearance early in the play after his wife's death; 'Enter the discontented Lord Antonio'.

No discontent for me. It is among the most satisfying of Stratford-Aldwych revivals.

J.C. Trewin.

Birmingham Post, 28.11.69.

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