The Duchess of Malfi

Aug 6 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩ Dark drama

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241) Mon 4 – Sat 9 August 2014

The Grads offer up a dose of Machiavellian plotting, madness and multiple murder at the Royal Scots Club in a gripping production of The Duchess of Malfi.

Oliver Trotter (Ferdinand), Caroline Ramos (The Duchess of Malfi), Thomas Timms (The Cardinal). Photo: J Gordon Hughes

Oliver Trotter (Ferdinand), Caroline Ramos (The Duchess of Malfi), Thomas Timms (The Cardinal). Photo: J Gordon Hughes

There’s something for everyone in the murder stakes – fratricide, infanticide, nepoticide and sororicide, to name a few.

Based initially on the true story of Giovanna d’Aragona, The Duchess of Malfi begins as a love story, with a duchess marrying beneath her class.

The lovers in question, played by Caroline Ramos and Gregor Haddow, are hesitant and secretive – Haddow particularly so, as Antonio the master of the household. And with good reason it would seem – there’s trouble brewing as the Duchess’s brothers are introduced to the story; Ferdinand and the Cardinal.

The brothers are each paranoid, arrogant and controlling in their own way.  Ferdinand is the overarching, overbearing boss of the family, played expressively by Oliver Trotter. He is overtly frightening as he attempts to control the Duchess and bend her to his will.

The Cardinal, brought to life by Thomas Timms, is the more controlled, cunning character, who spends the first part of the play in cold calculation.

unspeakable acts of murder

Following the birth of her children, the Duchess attempts to escape the clutches of her oppressive brothers under the pretext of a sudden pilgrimage. From here the production descends into a feverish, nightmarish tragedy as the brothers exact their revenge against the Duchess.

David Grimes as Bosola. Photo: J Gordon Hughes

David Grimes as Bosola. Photo: J Gordon Hughes

Bosola, under the employ of the brothers, is the instrument through which their deeds are done. David Grimes delivers the character with a sinister edge, performing unspeakable acts of murder in the name of the brothers. As the play progresses, Bosola attempts to regain his moral virtue and entrap the brothers to expose their crimes.

The production begins stiffly, with some actors appearing hesitant and nervous. This is in keeping with their characters, but in places this also spills over into a stunted delivery. However, as the play progresses, this gives way to emotion as the actors relax into their roles.

Caroline Ramos delivers the performance of the evening as the tragic Duchess of Malfi. Beginning with a lighthearted girlish charm, Ramos leads the character through anguish, defiance, contempt and ultimately acceptance. Her final scenes characterised by a remarkable display of strength. Oliver Trotter too is a pleasure to watch with his initial twisted displays of arrogance and incestuous behaviour, and subsequent descent to madness when faced with the horror of his crimes.

Sarah-Jane McGeachy and Laura Clements direct a dark and sinister production, exploring corruption, cruelty and class. Ultimately it leaves behind a certain sense of futility as the show reaches its climax. In death we are all the same, was the colossal waste of life really worth it?

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes
The Royal Scots Club, 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE (Venue 241)
Mon 4 – Sat 9 August 2014
Daily 18.30
Full ticket info:
Grads website:


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