The White Devil at Shakespeare’s Globe
The gilded chamber of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe is the setting for a skillful reimagining of Webster’s The White Devil, part of the Winter Noir season. The darkness of the room is illuminated only by candlelight, and this vaguely raw intimacy sets the tone for the entire production. This is a show that values its original source material; rather than being edgy it looks to tease out relevance from the original text, which has been only slightly chopped and changed. Credit is due to director Annie Ryan and dramaturge Michael West on all of the above. Though the characters are dressed in 20th-century attire and often display some 21st-century quirks, they embody the flavour and intrigue of the play’s original plot and setting.
Based on a true story, The White Devil tells the tale of political corruption and the pursuit of personal power and satisfaction in Padua at the height of its renaissance powers. Paul Bazely as Francisco demonstrates both high-end malice and pathos in turn, while Jamie Ballard’s Brachiano is half aristocratic court climber, half egotistical rock star. Joseph Timms often steals the show as Flamineo, his cockney take on the character eliciting plenty of laughs. Kate Stanley-Brennan’s Vittoria is fiery and complex and Shanaya Rafaat as Zanche is a standout and superb foil to both Flamineo and Vittoria.
The text deftly discusses misogyny, the value of power and the folly of revenge. One of its major themes is how we perceive ourselves and how we in fact outwardly appear. Ryan says that the issue of how to stage the play in a post-Trump, post-Brexit world was a key one for her. Indeed, some of the piece’s themes have perhaps not been so pertinent in a long while. In this sense, Webster’s The White Devil gives comfort to those who may feel we are living in extraordinary times, but perhaps less to those who feel that such barbarity should have been left in the 16th century. All of this aside, audiences will struggle to find a better night at the theatre this month, and this production will put the mockers on anyone’s latest Netflix crime drama. There are enough plot twists, murders and double-crossers here to satisfy even the most ardent fan. What’s more, Webster did it first, and he did it better than most.
Photo: Marc Brenner
The White Devil at Shakespeare’s Globe from 26th January until 16th April 2017. For further information and tickets please click here.