Harris’s Duchess goes West End

Jun 5 2024 | By | Reply More

Dr Who star plays title role in Lyceum-created play

Jodie Whittaker is to play the title role in The Duchess, Zinnie Harris’s bloody indictment of misogyny, at the Trafalgar Theatre in London’s West End (Oct 5 – Dec 20 2024: tickets).

The Duchess is Harris’s adaptation of John Webster’s great Jacobean revenge tragedy The Duchess of Malfi. It was originally produced and developed by the Lyceum in 2019 with Kirsty Stuart in the title role, when our critic said it was “★★★★☆ Necessarily nightmarish“.

Jodei Whittaker. Press Image.

Harris’s script retains the thrust of Webster’s original. Brothers, Ferdinand and the Cardinal, attempt to control the love life of Ferdinand’s recently widowed twin sister, the Duchess. However, she secretly takes the steward of her household, Antonio, as her new husband.

Whittaker is known for her portrayal of the 13th Doctor in long-running science fiction series Doctor Who and a succession of towering performances in the likes of Broadchurch.

She said: “I’m beyond delighted to return to the stage after over a decade, and even more so to lead Zinnie Harris’ incredibly powerful adaptation of John Webster’s harrowing drama.

tragic and captivating

“Zinnie has so brilliantly propelled The Duchess of Malfi into contemporary culture, which is what originally drew me to the piece. Being able to portray the Duchess’ tragic and captivating story on stage every night is a true honour.”

Harris will again direct her own script, which drops most of the wordy banter of Webster’s text, along with its examinations of class and the changes to social power structures taking place in 16th century Italy.

Kirsty Stuart as The Duchess in the Lyceum’s 2019 production. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

Conflating characters to the bare minimum needed to tell her story, Harris allows a glimmer of comedy to shine through before recreating the denouement as a full-blooded cry against the violence of male control of female sexuality.

Full details of casting and other creatives in the revival have yet to be announced.

The original included a memorable set by Tom Piper that pushed the stage right back to its edges, creating a giant white padded cell with a gantry running halfway up the rear wall. It was accompanied by Oğuz Kaplangi’s songs, strummed like gentle 1950s American pop.


The Duchess
Trafalgar Theatre, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY
Sat 5 Oct – Sat 20 Dec 2024
Mon – Sat: 7.30pm; Thurs, Sat mats: 2:30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.


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