The White Devil

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerKate Stanley-Brennan (Victoria) 
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerJamie Ballard (Brachanio)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerKate Stanley-Brennan (Victoria) and Joseph Timms (Flamineo)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerMarcy Ojelade (Isabella)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerMarcy Ojelade (Isabella)

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Annie Ryan directs a very droll take on Webster's bloody tragedy

Dublin-based American director Annie Ryan doesn't so much camp up John Webster's ludicrous 1612 revenge tragedy ‘The White Devil’ as earnestly treat it as if it were intended to be a comedy. She laughs with the play’s gothicky excesses, not at them, and if doing so sacrifices some of its bloody intensity, she never feels like she's being condescending.

In essence, 'The White Devil' is the classic married-boy-meets-married-girl-and-decides-to-have-both-of-their-spouses-slaughtered-so-they-be-together scenario. How funny it all is has a lot to do with the boy in question, and Jamie Ballard rises to it admirably - his Bracciano is a hilariously spoilt man-child, bored to the point of catatonia with his wife, who he sulkily has assassinated, alongside his fiery lover Vittoria's husband Camillo (scene-stealing played by Fergal McElherron as a sort of hapless reincarnation of Ronnie Corbett).

It is a hoot, and feels like it conveys the mischievous spirit of the Emma Rice era at the Globe without being ostentatiously modern - the only notable deviations from Jacobean detail are Jamie Vartan's tight leather costumes and Tom Lane's stabbling, horror movie-esque score.

There’s a distinct lack of tension, partly because it’s funny, party because Ryan takes care not to portray anybody as a victim, partly because after a while you assumes literally  everyone is going to die. Still, it’s a wild, funny, slightly sexy ride, a world of self-absorbed adults getting catastrophically in touch with their ids. It's a bit like 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses', except set in Italy and with an almost incalculably higher body count.


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