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The Spanish Tragedy - An exciting, if somewhat gory, story of murder and revenge

The Spanish Tragedy

Hurst has a long tradition of staging Shakespeare plays; indeed the only departure from this prior to this year was in 2004 when the Shakespeare Society took on Marlowe’s Dr Faustus.  For 2012, Director of Drama, Nicholas Beeby, decided to take another break from Shakespeare with Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy.

A story of murders, deception, lost love, mourning and revenge, The Spanish Tragedy holds many echoes of themes that are familiar to us in the works of Shakespeare and others.  The first victim, Don Andrea, whose ghost was set on wreaking retribution upon his enemies, introduced the action accompied by a greek style chorus representing revenge. Played hauntingly by Henry Pearl, Don Andrea returned at intervals during the action to see how events were progressing.

The Spanish Tragedy The Spanish tragedyTranslated by the Director into a modern day scenario of the ‘dog eat dog’ world of banking, the story unfolded against a minimalistic backdrop, thus concentrating the audience’s attention upon the interaction between the opposing factions of Spain and Portugal.

The movers and shakers of the banking world were given an interesting gender reversal, with no men in pin-striped suits, as Jasmine Thomas (Year 10 – Remove) and Lower Sixth former Alice Manly led the way in power suits and high heels.

Upper Sixth former Harry Hitchens was excellent as the Knight Marshall Hieronimo. In the beginning, he appears to be a simple member of the ensemble but, as the tragedy progresses, he becomes its lead protagonist.  Harry’s powerful portrayal of the inner turmoil of a father who has lost his beloved son Horatio and is driven to the edge of insanity by his desire to avenge that murder was by turn affecting and horrifying.  Hieronimo’s wife Isabella was played by Drama scholar Nicole Patterson-Vanegas (Year 9 – Shell) who is driven to take her own life.

The Spanish tragedy The Spanish tragedyDrama scholar Nancy Turner (Year 10 – Remove) played the love interest Bel-Imperia who, having already lost Don Andrea via the intervention of the Portuguese Balthazar, falls in love with Horatio, only for him to be murdered at the instigation of Balthazar and her own brother Lorenzo.  Nancy’s delivery of lines was clear and pitch perfect, creating a character for whom the audience genuinely felt sorry, as she was manoeuvred into marriage and, as the story approached its tragic crescendo, murder and suicide. 

The other characters woven into the intricate plot were played with flair; Remove Drama scholars, Milo Nicholson and Will Christopherson were impressive; Milo brought a little light relief into the proceedings with his portrayal of Pedringano, cheeky and disrespectful until realising, too late, that he was not going to escape execution.  Will played Bel-Imperia’s brother, Lorenzo, with guile; first as Balthazar’s co-conspirator and later as he seeks to isolate Hieronimo from the Spanish leader Ms King – an act that leads to his ultimate downfall.

In the second act, the action moved on apace and Hieronimo’s final act of revenge - the play within a play to entertain the Spanish and Portuguese wedding guests – was brilliantly executed by Harry Hitchens, Nancy Turner, Will Christopherson and James Clements (Shell). 

The Spanish tragedy The Spanish tragedyWith the body count now in double figures, the play ends, as it started, with Don Andrea.  It is for him to decide the fate of the dead – who should enjoy a happy eternity or endure the tortures of hell.

The cast did a superb job with a dauntingly complicated plot. Their reward was the admiration of the audience and the knowledge that the Bury Theatre has seldom witnessed so many characters in a single play come to such a variety of spectacularly gruesome ends.

To view more photographs from The Spanish Tragedy, please click here

Posted on 30/11/2012