BBC Radio 3, 28 November 2009
Jeremy Mortimer's production updated the action to mid-twentieth
century Spain. On this view Beatrice-Joanna (Anna Madeley) became the arch-schemer, deliberately contriving the
murder of her husband Alonzo (Alex Blake) so that she can marry Alesmero (Simon Muller) and thereby precipating discord
within the corridors of power. It was as a result of such conflicts that the Civil War broke out.
However this updating did not really impinge on the action, save for a dream-sequence
in which Beatrice-Joanna reflected on her actions, particularly persuading De Flores (Zubin Varla) to commit murder on
her behalf, when it was clear that De Flores had designs on her. The sequence was constructed as a series of radio broadcasts,
thereby emphasizing the relationship between private and public spheres. Whatever Beatrice-Joanna did to suit her own inclinations
inevitably had political repercussions on the Spanish state as a whole.
On another level, Mortimer's production showed how Spanish society objectified women;
they were either classified as virgins or whores, marriage properties or strumpets. Inevitably they had to conform to their
patriarchal masters' wishes: Beatrice-Joanna was forced to marry Alonzo to satisfy her father Vermandero (Nicky Henson). By
choosing to dictate whom she wishes to marry, Beatrice-Joanna could be seen as a radical, someone prepared to stand up against
the patriarchy in favour of self-determination. In doing so, however, she unwittingly subjected herself to another patriarch's
authority - that of De Flores.
One of the main challenges facing any director of The Changeling lies in
the so-called comic relief sequences, which appear to bear very little relationship to the main plot. In Mortimer's production
the relationship between Lollio (Stephen Hogan) and Antonio (Piers Wehner) was clearly defined; they formed a double-act who
tried to make their way in society through verbal sophistry. However they proved no match for Isabella (Catherine Bailey);
like Beatrice-Joanna she challenged the patriarchy but emerged successful. Set in a madhouse, these scenes emphasized the
extent of political anarchy at that time: there was no distinction to be drawn between sanity and madness.
The Changeling depicts a corrupt world in which life comes cheap
and deaths are frequent - particularly at the end. Mortimer's production suggested that this corruption was so endemic that
no one had the power to eradicate it. Even at the end, when Alsemero calls for everyone to "comfort one another,/ To
stay a brother's sorrow for a brother," we understand that this is just wishful thinking; no one really wants to "comfort