The Spanish Tragedy at the Old Red Lion Theatre (Islington) is a very good adaptation of Thomas Kyd’s work. With a theme of revenge, the audience follow Horatio’s mother who sets herself the task of avenging her son’s death. To make the play all the more exciting, the character, Revenge, meddles in events causing unjustifiable deaths leading the play to a chaotic end.
The set was quite alternative, abstract and sterile making this particular adaptation of Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy very interesting to observe. At the time the play was first produced, busy sets and colourful more elaborate costumes would have been used. In this production the costumes were simple and the majority of the cast wore black. The floor was white and there were menacing hooks hanging from the ceiling. There was a sort of white-noise playing throughout the entire piece. The lighting reminded one of an old psychiatric hospital; sanitary, neutral, and occasionally flickering. The light, sound and set came together to create a real sense of uneasiness. It almost had similar traits to a psychological thriller and in some ways it could be described as one; Hieronimo did end up murdering the wrong man because she was in such a mental state that made it easy for her to be misled.
The prominent colour of the play was blue. This emphasised a coldness. When a character died, a plastic bag full of paint was carelessly ripped from a hook hanging above the stage and the paint decorated the white (and unnervingly clean) stage floor with blue splatters. The bag clearly represented life and the way that the bags could be so easily ripped showed how casually the characters were playing with life; as though it had no real value.
One of my favourite parts of the set were the opaque screens that lined the edge of the stage. Behind these screens is where the murders happened, emphasising the physical separation that death causes. For example when Hieronimo sees Horatio dead, she has no physical attachment to his body as it is behind the screen. Instead the audience are drawn to a disturbing scene that shows Hieronimo covering herself in Horatio’s spilled blood. The feeling of isolation that death can bring was vividly prominent and the imagery of the play was incredibly poetic at times.
The cast were very talented. Each had their own very individual character giving the play a real diversity that I haven’t seen in a long time. Leo Wan (Revenge) was particularly strong as was Janet Etuk (Lorenzo). Throughout the play I was filled with a feeling of eeriness and intrigue which was largely due to the actors’ presence.
This production was incredibly engaging and its combination of set, sound and light are worth taking note of. It could all be described as very simple but I believe that the way it was used really did give the play a complexity that would not have been in existence otherwise.
If you want to experience an abstract adaption of a 16th century tragedy then make sure you book tickets before the 5th March 2016: http://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/the-spanish-tragedy.html