In its move from the Young Vic’s Maria Studio to its main house, Joe Hill-Gibbins’ operatically excessive production of Middleton and Rowley’s tragedy retains much of its power, though there are moments when the momentum suffers a little.
Zubin Varla (De Flores) and Sinead Matthews (Beatrice-Joanna) in The Changeling at the Young Vic, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Ultz’s brutal breeze-block design has been exploded outward to fill the larger space, with the audience members sitting in a gallery behind mesh, like the Bedlam gawpers they are, or in a wooden booth much closer to the action.
The central wedding sequence is still a glorious piece of theatre, but it’s the madhouse scenes which have been most radically changed. They are now even more grotesque, the performers’ bodies extended and distended, the whole world bathed in sickly green neon, all slobber and raw meat. The re-casting of the production has also strengthened it. Zubin Varla is a volatile, feverish De Flores and the scenes in which he paws at Sinead Matthews’ manipulative Beatrice-Joanna are made all the more unsettling by the physical disparity between them, this tiny child-bride being molested by the seedy leering figure in black.
There are, however, moments when it feels as though the delicate calibration of the original production hasn’t quite been replicated - with some scenes tipping too far in terms of excess, while the cacophony and chaos of the final moments seems more muted this time around - but the overall potency of the piece, the way it interrogates the play and teases out its themes, revelling in its mess, spattering the walls with it, is still incredibly impressive.