Duchess of Malfi Review: 500 year old play still relevant in today’s world


Romance, humour, betrayal and tragedy, all wrapped up in a big bloody bow of brutality. What more could you want from a trip to the theatre?

It’s the dawn of the sixteenth century in Italy and the recently widowed Duchess of Malfi falls in love with Antonio, a steward.  Her brothers, Ferdinand and The Cardinal, do not wish her to remarry, fearing an inferior match and even more so, having to share their inheritance. They hire a spy, Bosola, to ensure the duchess is not eloping with anybody. Meanwhile, the duchess and Antonio secretly marry and have three children. The Duchess, believing Bosola to be a trustworthy man, eventually confides in him and lets just say, things get awfully messy.

The Duchess of Malfi is the third instalment in Nottingham Playhouse’s Conspiracy Season. Despite being written over five hundred years ago, the themes of the play are so relevant today, in our self-interested and power hungry world. With a perfect balance of Jacobean tradition and a lovely element of modernity, director Fiona Buffini has revamped this difficult play into something for everybody. The beautiful staging encapsulates you into the ornate Renaissance world and the sudden use of darkness and sound reminds you not to trust your surroundings, or the people in them.

Like any piece of drama, the story can only go so far. The impeccable cast make this performance. Chris Jared, who plays Ferdinand, shows a remarkable versatility as his character’s lunacy develops. Matthew Wait makes a brilliant Bosola with his satirical and powerful stage presence. Even the smaller roles bring a vital comedic side to the performance, such as the seductive, adulterous Julia (Rebecca Sarker) and the wrongly self-assured doctor (Christopher Wollaton).

Jamie Satterwaite- Antonio Beatriz Romilly- Duchess of Malfi

The catharsis is real. You have until November 14th to catch this gem, and tickets are available at nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk.

By Stacey-Jane Wylie

Tags from the story