Bus Stop Theatre

Review: Villain Theatre's The Spanish Tragedy brings out the best of 16th century play

Disclosure: I was provided with free tickets to attend the play.

How much is vengeance worth?

It's the question that lies at the heart of The Villain's Theatre production of The Spanish Tragedy, now playing at Gottingen Street's Bus Stop Theatre.

An adaptation of a play originally written in the 1500's, The Spanish Tragedy shows tremendous fidelity. It's due in part to Dan Bray, the play's director, who chose to set his adaptation in 1930's Spain.

Even more of a departure from the traditional play is the choice to use six non-male actors to portray all characters.

As the two nations of Spain and Portugal come together after a long and bloody war, Hieronimo, played by Katherine Tufts, seeks vengeance upon the men who murdered his son Horatio, played by Madeline Tench.

The play is a bloody experience that is perfectly paced through its 90 minute run time. While The Spanish Tragedy stays loyal to it's roots by sticking to the iambic pentameter of the original, it is still easy to follow.

But the most surprising thing is the play's humour. As a tragedy you'd expect it to be doom and gloom throughout its run but the play keeps a light tone in quite a few scenes. The audience was the beneficiary of every fourth wall breaking look thatLeah Pritchard, who plays Balthazar, shot their way.

As characters flit around the stage, moving in between levels and around the tree that serves as the play's centrepiece, it's not hard to notice the exceptional movement between the cast. Whether it's the interaction between characters or the motion in the background, everything is excellently choreographed.

The standout performer of the play is Tufts. Every time she's on stage is a delight and her ability to switch from angry to crazed at a moment's notice is a sight to behold. As the driving character in the play, Hieronimo is the best example of the theme of vengeance, and you can truly feel it in each of Tufts' mournful screams.   

The play isn't for the faint of heart. There are the aforementioned screams, fights and an excellently rendered but delightfully goulish scene that I won't spoil for you.

I'd recommend you check the play out while you can. The Spanish Tragedy will run until Nov. 20 at the Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen Street.