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The Malcontent

The Royal Shakespeare Company's acclaimed Swan Theatre Season is finally in the West End. There had been some initial doubts if the RSC's season of five rarely performed 'Jacobean' plays would transfer to London due to the "self-inflicted" financial difficulties the RSC are currently facing. However, due to the foresight of two theatre producers Bill Kenwright and Thelma Holt, London theatregoers now have the opportunity to judge the merit of these plays for themselves.

'The Malcontent' by John Marston is the first offering in the season, a Jacobean comedy about the disposed Duke of Genoa, who infiltrates his former court in disguise as the malcontent Malevole. Here he watches the downfall of his egomaniacal successors, a ruin they bring upon themselves through their lascivious and murderous actions. Throughout the play plots of murder, revenge and seizure of power quickly backfire until the usurpers are themselves eventually overthrown leaving the way for the malcontent, Malevole to reclaim his Dukedom.

The director Dominic Cooke has set the play in 70s Latin America and this works particularly well. The balcony scenes and pageantry of a self-obsessed military dictator creates an atmosphere of betrayal and transience that suits the characters swift change of fortunes.

Two actors stand out, Anthony Sher as Malevole and Joe Dixon as Mendoza. Sher delivers his barbed insults with obvious delight as he jumps and gyrates and yet never reduces his character Malevole to that of a court jester. Dixon plays Mendoza with an air of narcissistic conceit that makes Mendoza's downfall all the more delicious.

The plot moves quick and fast throughout this two-hour play and the characters are quickly introduced making it difficult to follow the action on stage. I strongly recommend that you buy the programme and read the detailed synopsis provided, this will help prevent you from becoming disoriented.

Unfortunately, this comedy of revenge failed singularly to entertain as the script is just not amusing enough to maintain interest in the complex plot.

(Alan Bird)

Notices from the popular press....

DAVID LESTER for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Compelling and often extremely funny." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "The production is eminently worth catching." CHARLES SPENCER for DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Dominic Cooke's clear, hurtling-paced production wittily relocates the action to a banana republic in the 1970s..."ROBERT SHORE for TIME OUT says, "Breezy production."

External links to full reviews from newspapers

The Independent
The Guardian
Daily Telegraph

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