Joe Hill-Gibbons’s production of The Changeling has created an electric atmosphere. But while it definitely packs a punch and creates some superb comedy, I felt it lacked heart.
The Young Vic has once again been transformed, this time into a theatre in the round. Ultz, who is famous for creating the Olivier award-winning set for Jerusalem, with mesh cages and crash mats resting on wooden pallets, has given the space an almost gymnasium-like feel.
Hill-Gibbons’s production is truly innovative and exploratory. There are some brilliant ideas and some good use of the absurd – who doesn’t love to see someone smooshing jelly into someone else’s face during a lovemaking scene or using trifle as a weapon? This is an exciting piece by an exciting director and part of its absolute strength is the trust that the director has in his ideas and in his ability to create comedy.
However, I do feel that something has been missed. The actors create a beautiful relationship with the audience and the comedy of the piece is utterly accessible but I found it very hard to empathise with any of the characters or be drawn into their world; I felt more like a voyeur that a friend. I found it especially hard to sympathize with Sinead Matthews as Beatrice-Joanna and felt the nuances that brought about her change of character became lost in the confusion of the piece. Harry Hadden-Paton gives an incredibly strong and charismatic performance as Alsemero but I even found it difficult to emotionally invest in his character as there was so much that seemed to push me away from doing so. Other strong performances included Zubin Varla’s cunning and serpentine De Flores, a performance which sat perfectly with the audience but also created great moments for the other actors on stage, Howard Ward’s Vermandero and Nick Lee’s Tomazo de Piracquo.
The Young Vic has produced some stunning pieces recently. The Changeling aesthetically fits into this mould but it doesn’t have the heart and emotional sophistication that has really drawn me into much of the Young Vic’s work. It is, however, a production with many interesting and exciting elements and will undoubtedly entertain.
The Changeling is running at the Young Vic Theatre until 22 December. For more information, please see the Young Vic‘s website.