The Duchess of Malfi

Reviewer's rating

UCLU Runaground presents John Webster’s Jacobean tragedyThe Duchess of Malfi at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Set in Italy in the early 17th century, the recently widowed Duchess is denied re-marriage to Antonio due to her brother’s greed for more inheritance and disapproval of Antonio’s lower status. They marry in secret and bear children. Bosola is instructed by brother Ferdinand to spy on them but he changes allegiance after realising her unfair treatment.

The small stage space allows for an inviting performance. Incense laces the room as the audience enters a still scene with the cardinal, the duchess and her brother. Characters will be murdered inches from the audience, so perhaps not for the easily perturbed.

The characters are very well-casted, making for some chillingly convincing scenes, such as the prostitute Julia’s poisoning after kissing the Cardinal’s bible. Great attention to detail is exhibited particularly through their costumes.

A macabre atmosphere is created throughout with candles which illuminate the cast’s faces, with striking red lighting when they are murdered.

Recommended for a very authentic Renaissance experience.