Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: The Duchess of Malfi - Nov 06

From Wednesday, November 08, 2006

We went to see The Duchess of Malfi last night, without really knowing anything about the play. (Why does she book these things without finding anything out at all..? Why do I agree to go..?) It's basically a 15th Century gruesome horror story, set amongst the Italian aristocracy. Think, pure Machiavellian storyline (a la Borgias etc.) with Shakespearian language (cue Gill wondering what on earth they're all on about: I understood about one random word in every three,) but this production was set in 1940s Mussolini and Mafia-inspired Italy.

The best thing about the performance was the stage set, which all appeared to be made out of 8-inch thick polished granite. The costumes were dramatic and I suppose the acting was pretty good. But the language was indecipherable (It would be no exaggeration to say it might as well have been in Latin for me.) and the story is just horrific. Who goes to see these things for fun?

Basically the Duke of Malfi has died, and his widow's two brothers are very reliant on their sister's title, wealth and position to underpin their own glittering careers in, respectively, the church and the army. For all they claim to love their sister, they're determined not to let her marry below her station and damage their positions, so when she falls in love with her butler, marries him and bears him three children she has to keep it all secret from her brothers.

But they employ spies to live in her palace, eventually work out what's going on and have her imprisoned and tortured, with all her servants and her children. Every torture and murder session was played out in full gory detail throughout the second half. It was stomach-churningly revolting. Then the remaining characters went mad and killed each other and the play ended with a pile of bodies, pools of blood, the works. I was sitting there wishing it would just finish quickly and wondering about the state of mind of whoever wrote the play and whoever wanted to stage it and perform in it and buy tickets.. *looking sideways at M*, though to be fair she didn't enjoy it either.

But ok, there must have been something to learn from it. We were trying to think afterwards what that could be. Such gory things do really happen, said M. Probably did a lot back then. Yes and there was no judicial system to deal with them, I said, because they were in charge of everything, so they could just go around killing people and only have their own consciences to trouble them afterwards. That made us think about David Kelly. Also, even though family members may claim to love one another - may even love one another, money and position still come first amongst people who are so inclined. Everyone's disposable and murder is easy, if not the natural course of action, when you've done it once already.

But we could have worked all that out by staying at home, which I still wish we had.

posted by Gill at 9:07 AM 3 comments


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