John Ford wrote plays about passion and blood. He is noted for three and this – Love’s Sacrifice – is as violent, as passionate, as vigorously intense, as his other remaining productions.
It was first staged at least a decade after Shakespeare’s death but Will’s touch is everywhere. The play is based loosely on Othello, with a prince driven to jealous rage by what he is told is a love affair between his young wife and his best friend.
Well, you know where this is going to go. And it does. To wrongful revenge, blood and death.
But what saves this production, which can veer towards the antiquated, at the RSC’s Swan Theatre, is the overwhelmingly seductive design by Anna Fleischle. On the small stage, she creates the narrow arches of a southern European cathedral using a skeletal structure and video backdrop. With extra help from warm lighting, it succeeds in re-creating a 17th century culture overshadowed by fervid Catholicism.
The video then changes to take in palaces and grand homes of the Caroline period (post 1624) and draws you in, helping you to ignore the sometimes creaky and jaded plot.
Acting by Matthew Needham as the jealous duke and Catrin Stewart as the wronged wife are stand out. And Matthew Kelly has a ball as a stock superannuated fop to offer up broad laugh out loud humour.
But overall, despite the visual feast, this is a shadow of a Shakespeare creation suffused with frantic anger and lots of blood.
Until 24th June. Tickets: 0844 800 1110