A couple of weeks ago we gave you the chance to win a pair of tickets to The Duke in Darkness, a play by Patrick Hamilton, directed by Orlando Wells and produced by Lliana Bird. This week our resident theatre critic, Mog, headed over to the wilds of west London to take a look for herself. Here’s her review of the play:
I’m not sure why, but I don’t go to many plays. For similarly uncertain reasons, I rarely find myself further west than Hammersmith. So to be heading out to Turnham Green to see a play felt rather special before anything had really happened. Thankfully, the rest of the evening lived up to the promise.
The upstairs theatre space is small and intimate. The close proximity of the entire audience to the stage, and the steeply tiered seating, has the effect of making you feel included in the action as it unfolds. This isn’t so much watching a play as feeling the story as it unfurls around you. That the actors can quite possibly feel your breath on the back of their necks makes for an involving audience experience.
At the heart of The Duke in Darkness lies the relationship between the two main characters, the Duke of Laterraine and his friend, Gribaud. As the play begins they have been incarcerated as political prisoners in a tower for 15 years, and this spartan space provides the setting for the entire play.
The strength of the performances of the two leads (Michael Palmer as the Duke and Jamie Treacher as Gribaud) is outstanding; both actors project an on-stage energy that demands your attention, while at the same time presenting performances which are as nuanced and subtle as they are powerful. The result is a study of friendship which is full of deep love and intense tragedy – with all of the shades in-between, while never feeling overdone or predictable.
Costume design also deserves a shout out; the distressed Elizabethan wardrobe of the two main characters helps to anchor their situation without over-whelming it. The inclusion of a subtle hint of punk in the costumes adds authenticity and ensures that the obvious is avoided. Kudos to Ameena Kara Callender, who you may remember as the award-winning Costume Designer for Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy.
The production was enthusiastically received by the audience on the night I was there, which included a few familiar faces from the world of TVO (Noel and Mike Fielding, Tom Meeten, Dolly Wells) – and rightly so. In fact, the general concensus afterwards was that it really felt rather special: a charming, gripping play, powerful performances and impressive staging. Birdy and her team should be feeling rightly proud.
The Duke in Darkness plays at the Tabard Theatre until 11th May; tickets are available by clicking here.