Pride of place - my signed playbill
Review: Posh, Royal Court

Something old: Women Beware Women, National Theatre

Women-Beware-Women_1627394c Promised I'd write about this in a bit more detail earlier in the week, so here goes....

It's great to see a piece of classic drama such as Thomas Middleton's Women Beware Women played out on the grand Olivier stage at the National with all the stagey whizz-bangery and live music and singing they do so well.

If you want a plot summary - it's complex tangle of plotting and trickery as you'd imagine from a Jacobean drama - probably best to go to the official website but boiled down its about greed and satisfying carnal desires.

In classic Jacobean style there is a good serving lust and envy with most of the characters displaying little in the way scruples over how they get what they want and as this is Middleton it naturally includes everything from lying and bribery to rape and murder.

As with The Revenger's Tragedy which the National put on two years ago the whole play is essentially a set up for a delicious revenge-fuelled killing-fest in the second half.

Performance highlights have to be Harry Melling offering the light relief as rather idiotic Ward and Harriet Walters as Livia who encourages her brother to pursue his niece and quite happily lures the young bride Bianca into clutches of the lustful Duke.

It's all brilliantly done, well-paced and cleverly staged making the most of the Olivier's giant revolve. My only minor grumble is the National's fear of fake blood. OK so there was more than one method of murder employed during the final slaughter scene and not all were messy but when it comes to stabbing I feel short-changed if there isn't a bit of the stage red. It's something the RSC does so well. In Stratford they certainly don't worry about having a bit of a mess to clear up after every performance (Richard II's bloody corpse being dragged around a sandy stage for example).

But the blood thing is just me and it didn't spoil what was overall a very enjoyable evening's drama at the theatre.

And here's what a few others thought:

Charles Spencer in the Telegraph gave it four stars relishing in Middleton's unashamed obsession with sex, violence, general wickedness and black humour.

Time Out's Jane Edwardes also gave it four stars enjoying how director Marianne Elliott favoured the feminist interpretation of the story over the misogynist.