Sunday, 19 October 2014
Theatre review: The Massacre at Paris
Basically, The Massacre at Paris makes Titus Andronicus look squeamish, with barely a couple of minutes going past between bloodshed, as well as a few more devious murders (death by poisoned gloves!) that no doubt gave John Webster some ideas.
In a low-budget production in a small space, rivers of blood might have been tricky, so James Wallace comes up with the conceit of having red confetti representing it, and between that being coughed up and that spewing from wounds, the stage ends up carpeted in the stuff. The conceit allows Wallace to make fun of it with a couple of little visual gags - Guise coming out of the shower toweling off blue confetti is a subtle touch; the scene with the yellow confetti less so, but very funny.
Faced with a play that's considered incomplete, and is relentlessly, comically bloodthirsty, Wallace has opted to embrace the play's ridiculous side with a production that feels like a mix of Hammer Horror and Tarantino (one particularly bonkers scene no doubt inspired the latter touch, as an intruder's ear is cut off, then sold back to him.) It works, although it would have worked better with a bit of a zippier pace; scene changes are tricky in this space but more frequent use of the music that sometimes blares over them might have kept the energy levels up. And I'm not entirely sure that Gregor, with his ponderous delivery, was quite in on the joke.
But the show's silly aesthetic turns into all-out camp as Henry surrounds himself with male courtiers including Neal Gavyn's Joyeaux in his leather codpiece. Gavyn, along David Vaughan-Knight, also plays a soldier in a very comically gory scene that's one of the highlights. If it was a bit slicker Wallace's production would have been better, but it certainly can't be accused of not having fun with the much-maligned material, even using the archaeological site in the background as the scene for some of its murders.
The Massacre at Paris by Christopher Marlowe is booking until the 26th of October at the Rose Theatre, Bankside.
Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes straight through.