Digital review: The Changeling (Lazarus Theatre)

Lazarus Theatre, with their artistic director Ricky Dukes, turn their attention for their latest production to Jacobean drama in The Changeling, by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.

The play as written is full of claustrophobic spaces, deviousness, violence and sex. In the Lazarus take, the asylum subplot is dispatched and other lines and characters are removed.

What’s left retains its cadence, rhythm, and power, enhanced by a (rare) sprinkling of four-letter words. Beatrice is set to marry Alonzo, a man she does not love – preferring Alsemero instead.

As she makes a decision to enmesh a servant, De Flores, who is obsessed with her, into a murder plot, Beatrice only makes life much harder for herself, as even a gentlewoman has little power in a world led by men.

Although the power of the castle is now in her mother’s hands, due to a gender swap that doesn’t fully make sense, it is clear that men have all the moral and political rights, as well as the physicality and strength.

Filmed brilliantly, with clear sound, excellent and varied camera-work, and an energy which pulls you into the action, The Changeling is the most enjoyable of the Lazarus productions I have seen so far.

It is gory, ridiculous, tense and inventive: a Changeling for our times. As seen in a few previous productions of plays such as Macbeth, the dead do not leave the stage, but remain with a black balloon aloft.

The characterisations of the major players in this piece are sharp. Colette O’Rourke’s Beatrice has a commanding pleasure and influence even as the world she knew topples. Alonzo has less time to make a impact, but Alex Bird makes the most of it.

Rlsewhere, Henrietta Rhodes’s Diaphanta has a comic and bawdy edge, while Jamie O’Neill gives De Flores a pathetic subservience which completely convinces.

Tomazo (Olsen Elezi), Alsemero (Mylo McDonald) and Vermandero (Emma Wilkinson Wright). perhaps do not feel as deserving of our attention, but they have moments where we cannot turn away.

There are also musical interludes which add brusque and sarcastic comment to what we have seen, adding a contemporary slant to an old chestnut with archaic language.

The Changeling ran at Southwark Playhouse in Sep-Oct 2023, and was briefly made available in digital format 9-10 Nov. For more details check out Lazarus Theatre Company website.


Image credit: Charles Flint

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