Review Round Up: Women Beware Women, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean drama.

(c)Johan Persson.

WhatsOnStage: *** “Despite some dramatic moments peeking through, the effect of this stylised production leads to an ending peppered with stifled laughter.”

The Times: ** “Greed, ambition, sexual abuse: Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean gorefest makes a biliously apt play for today. Unfortunately, while Amy Hodge’s production has swagger and flashes of ingenuity, it’s less bloody tragedy, more bloody mess.”

Evening Standard: ** “The gender-switched casting of some roles adds nothing to our understanding of the play, and the score (blurting saxophones, plinky toy piano) and an air of camp comedy overwhelm pivotal moments. It’s a waste to play the whole thing for laughs.”

The Stage: *** “While the production is not short of over-the-top pleasures, in this condensed version some of the subplots feels truncated and rushed, and as it escalates towards the climactic slaughter, a wedding masque in which everyone wears Grecian costume, it seems to run out of steam. “

The Guardian: ** “It feels desperately over-stylised by the end. The central game of chess is artfully enacted by actors on different corners of the stage but other moments feel self-consciously kooky. The original script has been trimmed by a third and Hodge has added song and dance to underline the play’s theatricality but it feels like style over substance, and the stage is so busy with movement that it is in ceaseless churn, especially in the first half, with few moments of dramatic stillness.”

The Telegraph: ** “It’s a nasty, pitiless, thrillingly amoral world that offers an interesting provocation to 21st century audiences: should we beware Middleton’s women because they are brutalised victims of an oppressive patriarchy, or because, given the chance, they behave as badly as the men?”

Broadway World: **** “It’s a shame that at the play’s end Hodge’s production loses focus, for this is otherwise a sound piece. Realising the brutality of the Renaissance world and our own today, this game of human chess shows how simultaneously helpless and powerful a Queen can be if facing another Queen, especially when the pawns around them also want to bring them down.”

The Reviews Hub: *** “Middleton’s play is full of complicated transactions, of commerce, class, gender and concerns about who is using who. Even Leantio’s mother the good widow (Stephanie Jacob) does not escape scrutiny for facilitating the downfall of her daughter-in-law. But in trying to rescue or at least explain the wicked behaviour of the female characters Hodge’s production merely emphasises how poorly women have been served by male writers for centuries.”

The Upcoming: **** “Women Beware Women brings this sexist Jacobean tale to a 21st-century audience in a way that’s mostly clear and easy to follow. The play’s ending is meant to be over the top and a bit ridiculous, but it is confusing and sometimes hard to tell what’s going on. Aside from that, this is a well executed, conceptual and strangely hilarious performance which is well worth a watch.”

Time Out: *** “This is an audacious take on ‘Women Beware Women’, but it loses its nerve at the end, and the final bloodbath feels weirdly anticlimactic.”

British Theatre Guide: “It is a fast-moving, intelligent, clearly spoken production that makes good uses of the Wanamaker’s spaces and makes an old play come across freshly. Of course, all this happens in Italy. Such behaviour would never happen here. Well, women have more legal rights now, but Middleton’s play is a reminder not to be so naïve.”

Women Beware Women continues to play at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until the 18th April.

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