Follow by Email

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Jew of Malta Review

Amy Wilcockson is a 19 year old English student at The University of Nottingham, who took advantage of the RSC Key scheme to attend a performance of Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta in the Swan Theatre.

Having used the RSC Key scheme to see Henry IV Parts I & II and Wendy and Peter Pan, all of which were performed in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, I recently decided it was time to watch a production in the neighbouring Swan Theatre. After much deliberation, due to the strength of this season’s exploration of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Christopher Marlowe’s A Jew of Malta caught my eye. As a fan of Doctor Faustus, I could not wait to see another of Marlowe’s works – and I was certainly not disappointed.
The Jew of Malta is a comic tragedy and a tragic comedy, a mix of religious hypocrisy, treachery and revenge, assisted by the talented cast, all of which gave immensely strong performances. The Machiavellian Barabas (the Jew of the title), played by Jasper Britton, had the audience in the palm of his hand with his wit and trickery, despite his treacherous actions and eventual sticky end! Lanre Malaolu’s performance as Barabas’ murderous slave Ithamore was similarly a devilish and fiery performance, only equalled by that of Catrin Stewart in the role of Barabas’ daughter Abigail, who finds herself betrayed and revenged upon by her unrepentant, unforgiving father who ultimately causes her – and many other’s – deaths.

Stand-out scenes included the shocking mockery made of Barabas by the Christian rulers of Malta; seizing his wealth, beating him and spitting on him – a condemnation that continued throughout the play, and that undoubtedly provoked the Jew of Malta’s terrible vengeance. The reality of Barabas’ evil nature came with the contest between Don Lodowick and Don Mathias, duelling for Abigail’s hand, ultimately causing both their deaths and beginning the chain reaction of murder and revenge prevalent throughout the rest of the play.

The unforgiving stark set, designed by Lily Arnold, emphasised the play’s harsh messages of racism and revenge, whilst it was simple enough to convey a variety of settings, including a courtesan’s boudoir and a nunnery through the innovative use of props. The trapdoors, pool of water and gangways into the audience from which the actors entered, were all used to create a sense of intimacy and confidence between the actors and onlookers, and indeed I found myself caught up in the tale and wishing the play had lasted for longer! Live music, including the haunting vocals of Anna Bolton and the cast created a sinister and religious atmosphere, aided by the period costumes and religious attire of many of the supporting cast.


Director Justin Audibert, in his debut directorial role at the RSC has overall created an intense and thought-provoking piece of theatre, which retains its relevance today, due to the rise in religious-motivated crimes worldwide, despite it being written over 400 years ago. The RSC strives to bring theatre to new audiences whilst emphasising the relevance of these performances to contemporary play-goers. The Jew of Malta, complete with its puns, asides and dramatic irony, certainly shows Audibert and the RSC have succeeded in this aim. Bringing world-class theatre of this high standard to 16-25 year olds for a minimal price is an incredible idea, and I cannot wait to visit the RSC again. My only problem is deciding which play I want to watch next!

BP £5 tickets are available for The Jew of Malta - book your ticket today.

No comments:

Post a Comment