The Spanish Tragedy: Lazarus Theatre Company

the spanish tragedy

Billed as one of the bloodiest plays ever written, a slow burning beginning of exposition and account erupts ultimately into one of the most surreal, funny/horrific massacres outside witnessed outside the realm of Tarantino. The reason for its influence on other fellow works of Elizabethan drama is evident, with fine language and the twin passions of war and lust, and this overtly experimental production does a beautiful job of framing this within that context, whilst making it freshly accessible to the audience of today.

The beginning is fascinating, and clearly not a beginning dictated by the text. Taking our seats to the sight of the actors playing drama exercises – calling each other by their own names whilst garbed in their costumes – the sense of play was evident from the start. Perhaps not the emotional slant one expects from a play with ‘Tragedy’ in the title. The vocal exercises formed the musical backdrop as glimpses of scenes played out and the shift into character was assumed. This , ultimately, meant that the piece was book-ended with two plays: one of the actors becoming characters, and the second of the characters become fictionalised actors. Whilst this was most strikingly a piece of structural aesthetics rather than a message of great moral import, it nonetheless provided one of the most unique beginnings to a play I have seen and speaks much of the creativity of the Lazarus Theatre Company.

The drama that unfolds does so with tropes as commonly known to us as the X Factor title sequence, but does so with considerable more impact. A spirit who has been killed in war returns to exact revenge on those responsible. His wife, Bel-Imperia, falls in love with his friend Horatio, who then falls foul of a more royal suitor to her hand. Horatio’s brother, Hieronimo, discovers his body, and sets out to avenge his murder, becoming the agent of the greater tragedy. Solid performances were given across board, but real stand-out mentions must go to Felicity Sparks as Bel-Imperia, Danny Solomon as Hieronimo, and James Peter-Bennett as Lorenzo, Bel-Imperia’s softly slightly camp brother. Each captured the many layers of character and personality which Thomas Kyd’s play details, and each remained compellingly charismatic even when their characters were at their most morally dubious.

The Lazarus Theatre Company, along with director Ricky Dukes, has delivered a piece whose first impression remains vivid after the event. It is not without flaws – quieter performances fade into the background and technical issues such as lighting are perhaps slightly misjudged – but it is nonetheless a bold and fresh spectacle which matches the vivacity of the language with a vigour of its own.

(c) Becky Moore 2013

Twitter: @LazarusTheatre #spanishtragedy


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