REVIEW: Punishment Without Revenge, at Theatre Royal, Bath, 3/5, by Gerry Parker
THE remarkable Lope de Vega is reputed to have penned 1,800 plays, of which around 80 are considered to be masterpieces. Yet he found time to sail with the Armada, and take Holy Orders.
This play, considered to be one of his best works, is a tale of dark drama with a few dashes of much-needed comedy thrown in to relieve the relentless tension.
The story of the middle-aged, womanising Duke of Farrara – who marries the beautiful, young Cassandra, Duchess of Mantua, in order to placate his subjects who do not wish his illegitimate son Federico to inherit his title – is one that is doomed to tragedy from the outset.
When Federico is immediately consumed by an uncontrollable passion for Cassandra the moment he sees her, rejecting his first love Aurora, the seeds of tragedy are well and truly sawn.
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The lovers, Cassandra and Federico, are played with tremendous fiery passion and commitment by Frances McNamee and Nick Barber, with equally strong, but more controlled emotions, from William Hoyland, as the duke, and Katie Lightfoot, as Aurora.
The playwright's intensity of writing loses nothing in Meredith Oakes' translation, or Laurence Boswell's direction which is never afraid to allow the actors to explode into full-blooded action.
The audience, like the cast, must be prepared to commit to a relentless tension throughout the performance.