'Tis Pity She's A Whore (Arden Early Modern Drama). Edited by Sonia Massai.

The Arden Early Modern Drama edition of John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore isn’t the easiest book to read on the bus.  As ever, the noise of the other passengers calling work to tell them they’re late or the sound of some teenager playing Beyonce through the speaker on their phone simply aren’t conducive to concentrating on an academic text. But there’s also the self-consciousness of watching the not so subtle glances of my fellow passengers, the double take in which they have to look again to make absolutely sure that they did see “whore” the first time peeping just above my index finger.

All of which is utterly crazy and probably says more about me than the book, not least since the same title with the same pejorative as plastered all over Liverpool during the Everyman production I missed last year due to it being sold out on the days I wanted to go. On the basis of this splendid edition (and the reviews of the production) I missed something of a treat, a potent investigation into human sexuality, morality and taboos (if my fellow bus passengers are anything to go by) that still resonates in modern society.  ITV’s Midsomer Murders utilised the story as the basis for the their first ever episode.

Editor Sonia Massai confronts these issues head on, beginning with the play’s central storyline, the disastrous incestuous relationship between brother and sister before dollying outwards to show the stunning effects that has on society, in this case the city of Parma. The play is often thought of as a rewrite of Romeo and Juliet, but as Massai notes, whereas Shakespeare’s text retains its comedic structure because the death of the lovers still has the power to unify the Montagues and Capulates, ‘Tis Pity falls into utter tragedy, as Annabella and Giovanni’s indiscretion leads to the wrecking of not only their own family but that of those for which they’re intended.

Massai demonstrates that the play is both very simple but also utterly complex, oscillating between the monosyllabic lust which grips the siblings and the intellectual justification offered by Giovanni (which essentially amounts to “Well, we’re already of one flesh so …”). As with other Arden Early Modern Drama editions, her textual notes show once again that it wasn’t just Shakespeare who was capable of creating a text rich with allusion, who was influenced by Ovid and other classical authors. Even less is known about Ford (born in Devon in 1586, matricated in Oxford in 1601) but he was clearly just as well read.

The content of the play has kept it in relative obscurity up until very recently. After a burst of contemporary productions, it was left largely unproduced for centuries (with the exception of a few private shows, one of which was attended by Samuel Pepys and an “ingenious lady” in the 1660s) until a strong unbroken run in the past sixty years where it’s generally been edited to focus on the incest plot, generally portraying the lovers as victims of circumstance. Which isn’t to say their haven’t been some spectacular performances. The book includes photos of the set used for Alan Ayckbourn’s 1988 NT production, a Renaissance urban landscape on many levels.

About my only criticism of this edition is that it's so brief.  The introduction is afforded just ninety pages, and Massai must be sitting on a wealth of research which she hasn't the room to fully explore  Some of the best material is in the footnotes, the reference to Pepys diary, comparisons with modern media (the aforementioned visit to Midsomer and a useful comparison to Stephen Poliakoff's film Close My Eyes) and seems to tease a longer more baroque, more comprehensive text.  But what is here is enthralling and I look forward to seeing what other non-Shakespearean dramas Arden will be publishing in the future.

'Tis Pity She's A Whore (Arden Early Modern Drama). Edited by Sonia Massai. Methuen Drama. 2011. RRP: £9.99. ISBN: 978-1904271505. Review copy supplied.

"Through that last dark cloud is a dying star. And soon enough, Xibalbia will die. And when it explodes, it will be reborn. You will bloom... "

Universal theories of Doctor who? #2

TV There are two Doctors. The Eighth Doctor is still out there. Somewhere.

"Bagpuss & Co"

TV Cue floods of tears as nostalgia descends:
"This October, nostalgia fans can get their Bagpuss hit at a new pop-up Bagpuss & Co shop at Whiteley’s Shopping Centre in Bayswater. (There’s nothing like this at the new Westfield in Stratford, you know…)

"For a limited time only, you’ll be able to visit the old saggy cloth cat and his friends before they return to their owners. Inside Bagpuss & Co, you can see the original Bagpuss used in the show (did you know he was meant to be ginger, but the dyeing company made a mistake?), alongside his friends Gabriel, Madeline, Professor Yaffle and the singing mice."
Some day I'll be able to watch a whole episode again. Right now I can barely get through the titles. Simpler times.


Film Woody has renamed The Bop Decameron to Nero Fiddled which will leave Boccaccio fans weeping and the Roman Emperor claiming victory from the grave.

the negative review the evil version of me is writing

TV Having not read this review of Torchwood's Cyberwoman for a few years, I'm surprised to see it isn't quite as positive as I remember. It's more of an "Torchwood is what it is" affair though you can already detect a sense of disappointment that it isn't what we all thought it was going to be. Just look at that costume.  Is that what all female cyberpeople are like underneath their armour?   

Now of course the episode is nothing but laughable and up there with Doctor Who's Timelash and Star Trek's Spock's Brain as one of the worst disasters of fantasy television ever, saved only by the cyberwoman vs. pterodactyl scene. One of, because Torchwood still hadn't scraped the bottom of the barrel.

What an odd series. After last week's wierdly structured and bizarrely directed episode I really feared that this was a duck, a bungle, a six hundred and fifty minute mistake being played out tortuously over thirteen weeks. But tonight's episode lived up to the promise of the opening episode, delivering enough shocks, surprises and thrills to just about scrub out the memory of last week's misstep. Still open to question however, is whether the series would be essential viewing were it not for the Doctor Who connection and the mystery of the hand applications.

Not that it began well, with what can best be described as a distracting homage to the teaser for the Firefly episode Bushwacked with all the basketball and the time rift pulling some really, really cheesy metal music from the 1980s to accompany the reveal of the cyberwoman. And that costume! On the one hand, it was obviously designed to look completely outrageous and disconcertingly sexy, but in the context of the episode it really, really jarred and must have been a real pain for actress Caroline Chikezie (late of As, If and Footballer's Wives) who should be congratulated for being able to produce a credible performance beneath the silliness.

This was the classic base-under-siege that the mother series has always done so well, although it also owed some debt to the works of John Carpenter and Ridley Scott. It still, understandably, continues to look like a much cheaper series than Doctor Who, and the re-use of the CG for the cyber-converter was a shame although the pterodactyl looked good. It's a risk to run a bottle episode this early in the run, but as I think I've said in earlier reviews this is not a show about original ideas and why should that matter if it's also entertaining? So what too if they're trotting out the usual debates about what 'tis to be human as though it hasn't already been looked at ad-nausea on Star Trek.

Hold on -- sorry, I think that sentence gatecrashed from the negative review the evil version of me is writing in the Bad Torchwood dimension. Where was I? Oh ...

The real key on this occasion was of course that as well as simply battling the alien presence to the death, Torchwood was fighting with itself and the implications of that death. This was a pleasingly streamlined story, free of the flab that's been dogging the series. Developing the narrative in near real time helped enormously, and although we're yet to see writer Chris Chibnall tackle Doctor Who, it's almost as though he'd seen what worked there and transferred it here.

Some might criticise that again we're supposed to be surprised by the manic secrecy of a character we've had little time to get to know, but the performances really went some way to filling in the blanks -- John Barrowman's disappointment clashing with David-Lloyd's desperation. Given this more dramatic material, the cast either toned down or keyed up their work accordingly and for the first time there was real chemistry and urgency. For some reason the lack of overall characterisation seemed less important and actually worked to the episode's advantage -- Ianto points out that Jack (and we) didn't know about this because no one's bothered to ask.

[Good lord, according to the wikipedia Gareth David-Lloyd is currently dating Sara Lloyd Gregory who played Carys in Day One, and he actually essayed the role of Yanto Jones in RTD's Mine All Mine.]

Will the pterodactyl fight another day? As an internal security system, a giant dinosaur is certainly novel and one of the key decisions in this series seems to be to run with the idea of incongruous juxtapositions. The show is unapologetically serving up B-movie material (and in this case with a manga tinge) within a serial format and there's really nothing wrong with that if it's done with these winning sensibilities. The problem last week was that the underlying sense of ludicrousness was taken far too seriously, whereas here the madness was instead being played straight and it worked very well. A balance too was struck between the larger than life dialogue of the opener and something far more realistic -- and the fall out from Suzie suicide finally bit as it wasn't clear if Jack really would shoot Ianto in the head (or vice versa).

What is becoming abundantly clear is that Torchwood, possibly because of the alien influence have a very different sense of morality considering that they're the good guys. In those closing moments, who did they kill? Even though Lisa had swapped her mind into the body of Annie the pizza girl, which is monstrous act, wasn't she fully human? Even though she still suggested upgrading wasn't that just psychological conditioning which could have been reversed? Didn't she, despite the new outward appearance, deserve a second chance? And how can anyone trust Ianto now -- is it wise not to kick him out of The Hub -- or is this a better the devil you know call?

[Incidentally, Annie actress Bethan Walker is on Twitter.]

Does the episode prove that Torchwood has legs after all? I'm still scratching my head. In a sense, this wasn't an episode that displayed all of the apparent promise of seeing a full blooded sci-fi story on the streets of Cardiff. How it scored instead was that despite being a direct sequel to a Doctor Who episode, it still managed to have its own tone and style and a sense of story that could and would not have worked at seven o'clock on a Saturday. Although the debate about whether that's a good thing still rages, and it's really difficult not to talk about the series without referring back to (and I'll say it again) the mother series, it's still quite exciting to see that material being produced without exceptions being made for the sake of the kids.

PS.  According the IMDb, Cyberwoman is one of Bethan's only screen credits but she's recently been working at Shakespeare's Globe, which is excellent. Well done you.]

"analyse the magazine formats, layouts and channel history"

TV (and Radio An update has been posted about the BBC's Genome project, in which they're scanning every back issue of the Radio Times in order to create a complete programme history for the corporation:
"Once the scanned images of the magazines had been produced, the mammoth task of capturing the text in the Radio Times could be begin.

"This is largely being done automatically, but in order for this to be feasible we had to analyse the magazine formats, layouts and channel history over the 88 year period to create rules could be applied to capture the programme listings in a meaningful way.

"We devised a schema which would house the various parts of the programme listings such as time, title, synopsis, cast, crew and so on, and doing this revealed just how complex the BBC's channel history is."
Scanning is complete. Now they're about the task of creating the database then making it available in 2012. Can't wait.

"Again, the Beatles thing"

Music The AV Club has a nice interview with Susanna Hoffs. Here she is on the inevitable:
"“Going Down To Liverpool” was a Kimberley Rew song, and—I hope I’m getting this right—he was in the band The Soft Boys, I think, and then Katrina And The Waves. He’s just a great guy, a British guy who writes fantastic pop songs, in the best sense of “pop.” The best kind of pop songs, really catchy melodies but sort of offbeat in a way that always has appealed to The Bangles. I mean, we always seem to be attracted to that kind of thing, and we were just immediately struck by the fact that “Liverpool” was in the title. Again, the Beatles thing, but it was a reference that made us think of The Beatles and where our original inspiration came from, so it was kind of a natural choice for us."

"that is what the career of an asshole looks like"

Music Elizabeth Wurtzel is writing about music for The Tablet.  Her latest article is about tracks for Yom Kippur but earlier in the year she wished Lou Reed a happy birthday:
"This is why a lot of those RCA albums from the ’70s are not merely produced distastefully—the quality is also actually shoddy: because that is what the career of an asshole looks like. Sometimes incredibly good work will get done because talented admirers will show up willing to do anything, and so you get an album like New York (made in the ’80s for Sire, but same thing), which was good work all around. But too often one is confronted by something like The Blue Mask, a beautiful contemplation of sobriety and love and commitment that has mediocre production values. Lou Reed’s post-Velvet career makes it obvious that it really was a band, because it’s only in those live recordings at the Academy in the early ’70s, like on Rock n Roll Animal, when Mick Ronson is on guitar, that solo Lou comes close to sounding as interesting as VU Lou. For all his talent, Lou Reed’s recorded output would be a whole lot better if a good collaborator—or two or three—were not so hard for him to find."
Cue obligatory clip of Metal Machine Music. I'm so, so sorry ....


In his latest video blog about film projects by great director that didn't happen, Mark Kermode drops an amazing bombshell ...

The World's Strangest blog has more:
4. Hamlet, starring Cary Grant
In the late 1940s, Hitchcock hit on an odd idea: he wanted to produce a modernized version of Hamlet set in England with Cary Grant in the title role. According to Hitchcock, the project “would be presented as a psychological melodrama.” The idea hit the rocks after Hitchcock’s studio, Transatlantic, announced the project and a professor who had written a modernized version of Shakespeare’s tale threatened a lawsuit.
Sounds rather like the Kurosawa or the Kaurismaki.

The Curse of Clyde Langer.

TV "Clyde discovers homelessness" should be the most problematical story concept in the history of The Sarah Jane Adventures, but it’s perhaps a tribute to the production team that a premise which elsewhere might have seemed facile and exploitative didn’t create any sense of concern when The Curse of Clyde Langer was announced. This is a show which in the past has sensitively covered such other difficult topics as Alzheimer's and absentee fathers and one which continues to have sense of duty to it’s young audience to treat them with respect. While it’s true that this was a more sanitised version of homelessness than might fill a post-watershed slab of grimness on BBC Three or a Comic Relief film, there was enough content between the lines for inquiring minds to fill in some of the blanks. Or decide they didn’t want to.

Writer Phil Ford’s mechanism for throwing Clyde onto the streets was the genus of SJA story in which an alien or alien artefact causes reality or perception of reality to bend around a particular character, arguably first seen and very effectively in Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? On this occasion for all the utilisation of alien totem poles, the sudden alienation of Clyde’s to friends and family was especially shocking and anyone who has seen those post-watershed slabs of grimness on BBC Three or Comic Relief films or you even real life, cleverly mirrored what can happen in some cases when people become homeless, the perception that everyone they know has turned their back on them, that their lives would be better without them, and the disappointing element of pride involved.

The ever presence of a person’s name in the modern world is one of the reasons this blog’s been relatively monosyllabic in subject lately, but the curse of not being able to be too personal on a personal blog has nothing on what Clyde had to endure. Daniel Anthony was up to the challenge of switching from the light version of the character to one who appreciated the gravity of his situation. The contorted faces of Sarah Jane, his mother and Rani helped to convince us of that hopelessness, Anjli’s Bambi-like eyes shifting into some other level of viciousness which suggests she’d be perfect as a future incarnation of her Whoniverse namesake. Tommy’s absence left Daniel selling Luke’s rejection which he succeeded with quite well, and implies Sarah Jane’s first surrogate,  more susceptible to the curse, is also more human than Sky.

What followed was not as raw as miserablist Cinema du look classic Les Amants du Pont-Neuf or even So-Called Angels, the Christmas episode of My So-Called Life in which Rickie is homophobically kicked out of his house, no Julianna Hatfield hiding around a corner ready to busk her way into our broken hearts. But it was at least sensitive enough to leave the investigation of the fantasy plot elements with newcomer Sky and simply allow Clyde to tour the lifestyle with his new friend “Ellie”, even playing on our expectations slightly with talk of the legendary Night Dragon suggesting a Fisher King-like confrontation, budget permitting. But arguably Clyde was fighting an even greater demon – his capacity to retain his sense of self amid a situation in which even his own name could lead to his destruction.

It would be interesting to know what research writer Phil Ford undertook before writing these scenes, but what was clever about them was that by keeping the focus on a single character he was able to imply so much more at the margins. Certainly the ambiguity of the experience “Ellie” had been through before saving Clyde from the rain suggested all kinds of horrors, as did the intelligent underplaying of Lily Loveless (from RTD favourite Skins). With the exception of a single too on the nose line from Sarah Jane (a touch of the Tasha Yars in TNG’s Symbiosis), this was very good at showing the fragility of our lives, how any of us could let the situation go too far if we’re not careful.

Some might argue that “Ellie” was sprinkled too heavily with the manic pixie dream girl dust. But it’s always important for us to remember that SJA is made for a younger audience and there are compliance issues in bringing in the more hardcore "issues" like prostitution or drug abuse. Emotions here have always been painted in broad strokes and only rarely has a character been portrayed with moral ambiguity. It’s important for “Ellie” to be a romantic, likeable figure for the central themes of the episode to be put forward and Ford et al are also to be applauded for not including the obvious scene in which “Ellie” learns Clyde’s real name and turns against him. Making us love her also deepens our understanding of Langer’s loss at the end, knowing that in leaving her, he’s taking some more of her hope with him.

So many lovely moments.  As Paul Thomas Anderson (and The X-Files) have demonstrated there's nothing more amusing than amphibious life falling from the sky and the shot of a school yard full of fish was an excellent start.   Sky trying to keep her electric personality under control.  The camp-fire scene (see above) in which Clyde is forced to burn his comic book in order to keep him and "Ellie" warm, romance blossoming in the embers.  The casting of distinguished stage actor Ewart James Walters as the wise homeless man at the end explaining the disappearance of "Ellie" to Clyde.  I last saw him as Hymen in As You Like It at Shakespeare's Globe a couple of years ago fulfilling a similar function of gaining our immediate attention through his curiously deep voice and looming height.

As expected, as Sky, Sinead Michael’s ably relaxing into the role of filling in for Luke who in similar stories was usually the person who’s alien make-up was unaffected by whatever’s befallen the gang. As expected too, the brotherly friendship scenes between Clyde and Luke have now transmuted into sisterly conversations at school with the sweet moment over school dinners. It’s a pity we won’t ever enjoy the scenes in which Sky tries to integrate with the other kids, not really understanding anything they’re saying. Never mind Mels, Sky’s also an unearthly child redux, and we’re really going to miss the episodes when Haresh exasperatedly attempts to put her on the academic straight and narrow.

Then the tears. The sense of loss. A more melodramatic version of this story would have not have just turned Sarah Jane and co away from Clyde but made him their antagonist outright, chasing him down like some common Weevil. Instead, they morn even if they know not what for. Tears of grief. That’s more dramatic somehow because it’s about Sky’s ability to persuade her Mum and friend to change their mind, overcome their mental conditioning, about discovering the source of those tears. That’s another, still more subliminal message about realising who your loved ones are and cherishing them. Remembering them. That can’t have been an easy few hours on set. Lots of hugs. It’s a triply difficult scene to watch now too, for obvious reasons. The Doctor Who Magazine tribute is out next week.

Once again we’re left with the disappointment that a show this entertaining, that’s reached the zenith of its powers can’t be made any longer. The Sarah Jane Adventures continues to be branded as just a kids show even by Doctor Who fans, and especially fans without kids. I don’t have kids but even I can still see it for the show that it is, still being made with the care which seemed to desert some of its creators when they made the US-based series that followed. True, I’ve been critical of it myself in the past, and especially Phil Ford’s writing, but he’s delivered his best script here and that needs to be said. One story to go and it’s by Gareth Roberts and reports suggest it’s the show going out on a high. Well good. It deserves to.

"This week's theme ... my sex tape."

""Well, from WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, I'm Ira Glass. Each week, of course, we choose a theme and bring you a variety of stories on that theme. This week's theme ... my sex tape."
--Ira Glass, Host
Not really. It's a parody. But a very good one. The music utilisation is particularly forensic. [via]

Updated 12/10/2011 A further This American Life deconstruction: This Spotify Playlist.  Now you too can be Alex Blumberg.  "Then Slovakia, one of the smallest nations in the European Union, voted against something called the European Financial Stability Facility package and the continent faced fiscal collapse."  Cue Ghosts I by Nine Inch Nails. [via]

Updated 15/10/2011 Ira has heard the sex tape. Or part of it. He tells the Village Voice:
"I've listened to about three minutes of it. His imitation of my writing and delivery are so dead-on, it was hard to keep listening and I stopped. If I had to articulate why, I think it was because hearing his version of me, made what I do on the air seem kind of dumb. And the impersonation was so good, I couldn't really pick a fight with it. So I had to decide, do I want to see myself as kind of trite and dumb? Seemed better to stop. Maybe I'll go back sometime."
A This American Life episode about impersonations can't be too long in coming ...

galleries, project spaces and the purpose built Print Room

Plug! I'm unable to attend due to work commitments, but I promised to post this press release. Local art lovers should notice the participation of the Ceri Hand Gallery ....

27 – 30 October 2011

The third edition of The Manchester Contemporary takes place from 27 to 30 October 2011 in Manchester’s Spinningfields district. Exhibiting work by internationally presenting artists alongside those that are new and emerging The Manchester Contemporary brings together by invitation 10 of the UK’s leading commercial contemporary art galleries alongside a purpose built Print Room and a series of information and project spaces.

Over four days visitors will have the opportunity to view and purchase works by critically engaged artists and learn more about them, their work and the process of collecting contemporary art at the North West’s leading contemporary art-fair.

The Manchester Contemporary will welcome the following galleries and their artists:

Arcade, London
Bureau, Manchester
Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool
Cole, London
Man & Eve, London
Mermaid & Monster, Cardiff
Seventeen, London
The International 3, Manchester
Workplace Gallery, Gateshead

A new addition to the fair in 2011 is The Print Room. Here visitors will be able to view and purchase a wide range of limited edition prints. Works for sale by artists from The Manchester Contemporary exhibitors will be complemented by prints from a selection of other invited organisations. In addition, a series of information and project spaces will include presentations from artist-led spaces, artists’ agencies and partners of The Manchester Contemporary.

Launched in 2009, The Manchester Contemporary is committed to encouraging and developing a market for critically engaged contemporary art in the region.

Once again, Manchester gallery The International 3, has been selected to take the role of curatorial co-ordinator for The Manchester Contemporary art-fair. The International 3 has been charged with bringing together galleries and projects that give art enthusiasts, buyers and collectors the opportunity to access world-class contemporary art.

Paulette Terry Brien and Laurence Lane, co-directors of The International 3 added:

“We are pleased to welcome back to Manchester some of last year’s exhibitors whilst new participating galleries, project spaces and the purpose built Print Room demonstrate our ambition for The Manchester Contemporary to continue to grow as a critical mass opportunity to view and purchase high-calibre contemporary art.”

Details of the artists exhibiting at The Manchester Contemporary will be announced shortly.

To book free tickets for The Manchester Contemporary visit www.themanchestercontemporary.co.uk

The Duchess of Malfi (Arden Early Modern Drama). Edited by Leah S. Marcus.

John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi is a (so far) atypical selection for the Arden Early Modern Drama series because it’s one of the few plays by a contemporary of Shakespeare which is still performed with great regularity, enjoying over forty commercial productions between the mid 1940s and late 80s (with countless others since). Which is doubly unusual given that most of Webster’s plays are lost, with only a couple of others including the equally popular The White Devil and a smattering of collaborations still available.

Which isn’t bad considering he was largely a part-time playright, with recent research uncovering evidence of a second life working in his father’s coach-building business. It’s also interesting that his authorship of the plays isn’t questioned even though he arguably received a less distinguished education than Shakespeare in a school run by his father’s firm. But as editor for this volume Leah S. Marcus demonstrates, he was not a man intellectually punching above himself, it was simply that his priorities were differently weighted in comparison to his colleagues.

Marcus offers a few conclusions as to why the play was so popular then, and continues to be so now. She talks at length about the nostalgic element, of Malfi as a reminder of Elizabeth I during the Jacobian period, her more unsavoury personality traits all but forgotten. There’s also the darkness of the plot, the clandestine marriage eventually destroyed by the lycanthropic Ferdinand and the details of the murders, not least the poisoned bible. More recently it is it’s capacity, like the best plays, to feed into contemporary allusion, even evoking the Holocaust in the 1940s.

But mostly it’s simply that it’s a damn good play. It’s based on historical sources, developed heavily from the life of a Duchess of Amalfi, an Italian Renaissance figure who also married and had children in secret, only to be captured and disappear as they attempted to flee to Siena once they’d been found out. Though Webster embellished the story somewhat (see above), there’s something very seductive about witnessing such an unbelievable story within a theatrical setting. This is a Hollywood narrative at its finest, but in the early 1600s.

The main documentary texts referred to are included as appendices, though like Shakespeare, Webster had a magpie approach to his writing and the text is filled with allusion and laced with elements of Delio and Donne (post conversion) Unlike many Arden editors, Marcus has decided to leave much of this discussion to the textual notes which makes for a much more focused and readable approach both there and in the introduction (which have sometimes, in other volumes, become bogged down with such things).

As ever, one of the more interesting passages concerns the text. For very tangible reasons, Malfi has two first quartos, an A and B. Printer Nicholas Oakes had quite happily prepared the text and was merrily knocking out editions when Webster happened to pop in to his shop to see how things were going. The firstly the playwright noticed a “Hymne” not by him had been added and there were a range of textual errors. Once the work began again, the “Hymne” had become a “ditty” with a disclaimer pointing to it not being by Webster and a range of other corrections applied.

That printing and the further three are also inextricably linked to the production history, since each contains information about the locations of the various shows and actors involved. These also mirror theatre history as boy casting gives way to actresses with Q3 showing Mary Betterton as (perhaps) the first time a female played Malfi (opposite her husband as Bosola, Ferdinand’s spy). As was the fashion, Q4 was heavily truncated close to the Restoration, and three other adaptations followed, with only the full text returning to rotation in the last century.

Sadly, not as much room is dedicated to the more contemporary productions though there are some useful the photographs of Judi Dench and Helen Mirren at the RSC in 1971 and Royal Exchange Manchester 1980 respectively, the costume of the latter heavily influenced by Elizabeth I. Nevertheless, this is another well turned out edition from Arden and for once we’re able to easily experience the play for ourselves. This useful 1972 BBC production has been uploaded to YouTube and I can also recommend this previously review Stage on Screen version.

The Duchess of Malfi (Arden Early Modern Drama). Edited by Leah S. Marcus. Methuen Drama. 2009. RRP: £10.99. ISBN: 978-1904271512. Review copy supplied.