Time Out says
Hattie Morahan powers a camply hilarious version of this great Jacobean tragedy.
If comedy equals tragedy plus time, then Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s 1622 tragedy ‘The Changeling’ has had almost four centuries to get funny.
Some of it already was: setting aside the darker Middleton-penned main story for a moment, Rowley’s subplot about romantic shenanigans in a loony bin was always intended to elicit a few un-PC lols. That’s why exasperated modern directors often give it the heave. But Dominic Dromgoole’s new take for the Globe positively revels in everything ludicrous and anachronistic about ‘The Changeling’.
Often it’s down to the lead to find the tragedy in the play, but as Beatrice-Joanna, the noblewoman who loses her virtue in more ways than one, Hattie Morahan does quite the opposite. Posh, frivolous and impulsive, with her mouth constantly half-agape and her voice flitting excitedly through the octaves in a way reminiscent of Queenie in ‘Blackadder’, Morahan’s performance isn’t a piss-take, but it’s certainly disarmingly light-hearted.
In contrast to her painfully intense recent turn in ‘A Doll’s House’, Morahan’s Beatrice is almost frighteningly superficial. It’s Jacobean tragedy by way of ‘Made in Chelsea’ and it’s actually a pretty legitimate interpretation. Spoilt Beatrice finds herself in a terrible pickle via a combination of over-entitlement and under-thinking, believing that she can make her feckless fiancé ‘go away’ by calling in villainous manservant Deflores (Trystan Gravelle), and that such an action will have no consequences. She’s wrong, but key to avoidance of tragedy in its bleakest form is the thickness of skin Morahan gives her: she doesn’t seem that concerned when Deflores coerces her into his bed, bearing it all with a sort of amusingly British stoicism that only really runs aground when she’s finally caught and her other plans go kaput.
Dromgoole’s frequently laugh-out-loud production doesn’t attempt to impart any great truth and simply embraces the gothicky camp of the story, the rich comic nuance of the language, and filters it all through the artfully lit gloom of the Sam Wanamaker. You might call the end result a winningly dark cackle at the futility of romantic endeavour. But really it’s about the performances, of which there are many keepers, but best of all Pearce Quigley’s wonderfully deadpan asylum attendant Lollio, Gravelle’s disarmingly gentle Deflores, and above all Morahan, her rich voice loopily illuminating the gloom.