THE CHANGELING by Middleton & Rowley ♥♥♥♥

Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe

With its brutal murders, and a heartless but irresistible heroine, The Changeling is a shocking account of lust in action.

Trystan Gravelle and hattie Morahan as Deflores and Beatrice-Joanna. Pic: Marc Brenner.

Trystan Gravelle and Hattie Morahan as Deflores and Beatrice-Joanna. Pic: Marc Brenner.

Whatever our concerns today about the insidious rise of 24-hour surveillance,  the 17th century was little better, judging by Middleton and Rowley’s bloody play The Changeling.

If you’re up to no good, you can be sure someone is spying, listening, overhearing or otherwise keeping a Big Brother-style eye on you. Everyone changes or dissembles, and in Dominic Dromgoole’s production, flickering candlelight – or the lack of it – is a constant reminder of the evil intent that spurs its key characters.

Beatrice-Joanna is the well-bred beauty with zero conscience, whose only real fear is not for her immortal soul as an accessory to murder, but for maintaining her reputation as a virgin after that ship has already sailed.

Hattie Morahan thrills as Beatrice, full of flirtation and passion with Alsemero, but switching in a trice to brutally frank loathing when her doggedly devoted servant Deflores appears.

Beatrice-Joanna may have few redeeming features as a heroine, but Morahan has created a chilling politician in this woman who trades lives for her own convenience and shrugs them off with every appearance of not caring a jot. Even her devoted serving woman Diaphanta (a mischievous Thalissa Teixeira) is sacrificed to the flames in a grand-scale cover-up.

Beatrice-Joanna is brilliantly courted by Trystan Gravelle as Deflores, whose quiet demeanour masks a steely determination to serve his beloved at whatever cost to himself. His easygoing camaraderie with other men masks his cool deceit – even a visitation by the bloodied ghost of his victim can be brushed aside with a shrug.

Fight director Kevin McCurdy did masterly work in The Knight of the Burning Pestle, and here excels once again.  The ghastly death of poor, unwanted bridegroom Alonzo (Tom Stuart) is a long-drawn-out and hideous brawl that demonstrates better than any words just how lost Deflores is to any human feeling beyond that of satisfying Beatrice’s wishes.

Madman and master: Brian Ferguson as Antonio, who's pretending to be mad, and convinces Lollio (Pearce Quigley). Pic: Marc Brenner.

Madman and master: Brian Ferguson as Antonio, with Lollio (Pearce Quigley). Pic: Marc Brenner.

Pearce Quigley plays plain speaking, lascivious Lollio, the servant who guards the poor madmen and fools in a Bedlam-like institution owned by his master Alibius. His earthy delivery and beautifully controlled physicality squeezes every possible comic possibility from a character who’s always threatening to whip his charges, but seems to have a grudging fondness for them.

The scratchy, sometimes discordant but strangely beautiful score by Claire van Kampen brings a sense of disquiet throughout – not least when accompanying the madmen’s dance as they rehearse for the ill-fated wedding entertainment.

Designer Jonathan Fensom has created gorgeous costumes spilling with lace, as well as some pretty grim outerwear for the inhabitants of the madhouse.

Chock full of sex, lies and spies, this dark-hearted Changeling is an entirely gripping production.

Box office: 020 7401 9919

Until March 1

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