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The White Devil RSC - 1996

'This production opened with a strong image: Isabella kissing an enormous portrait of Brachiano, positioned on the balcony of the stage. This portrait remained in place, dominating the action for much of the play, until Brachiano's death. Then the picture was stripped off, revealing a charnel house style collection of skulls behind.

The incestuous element in the Flamineo/Vittoria relationship was extremely overt. Jane Gurnett had her breasts manhandled as much by Flamineo as by Brachiano (both Vittoria and Zanche spent a lot of time lacing and unlacing their bodies). When Richard McCabe's Flamineo wanted to threaten Vittoria at the end of the play, this included lasciviously licking as much of her skin as possible.

The play with black and white called for by the text was complicated by the casting of black actor, Ray Fearon, as Brachiano; Zanche was pale by comparison; Francisco went "arabic" in colouring and costume for his performance as Mulimassar. [...] no sign of one black presence the text calls for - the servant "little Jaques the Moor" [...] As a complete contrast with Brachiano, Isabella had pale, blond colouring which was emphasised by her cold blue costume; Vittoria unsurprisingly was dressed in bright red/orange.

The gory special effects were a highlight; Brachiano's death was particularly gruesome. [...] There were several major changes to the text as if to make the play more manageable and the narratives clearer; for example, the intertwining narratives of Camillo's and Isabella's deaths were separated out. The conjuring was cut back; and we simply saw the picture of Brachiano on the balcony, being prepared by Doctor Julio, who looked as if he were wearing a wart encrusted comic monster mask. The killing of the bookish, endearingly ineffectual Camillo then took place on the stage below. It was only after the arraignment of Vittoria that we saw Isabella die from kissing the picture.

For her arraignment Vittoria faced the theatre audience so that we were clearly positioned as her judges. Morticelso circled hungrily around her, never actually touching her but slavering over her as if he longed to. Vittoria's isolation and entrapment was clear, but the continued use of the centre spot meant masking was epidemic. [...] the generally abominable treatment of women in this play was always clear, and even the very wholesome Marcello appeared to enjoy bashing and kicking Zanche. Richard McCabe's Flamineo was angry, tatty, and always incestuous. Caroline's Blakiston's Cornelia was regal and went mad rather sedately.

The production closed with an image of powerful state control as masked heavies dressed in black rushed in and filled the space. The audience response to the production was extremely enthusiastic; but this was a very mediated White Devil - as if Edwards felt the play needed help, even rescuing, before the audience could cope with it.'

Elizabeth Schafer, RORD 36 (1997), 117-9