Punishment Without Revenge - reviews of Spanish masterpiece

Jan 30, 2014

Revival of Lope de Vega's classic revenge tragedy mixes tense drama and wit for 'a darkly polished treat'

Jane Hobson
What you need to know

After a successful run at the Theatre Royal, Bath last year, Punishment Without Revenge has transferred to the Arcola, London as part of a season of Spanish Golden Age plays. Lawrence Boswell directs Meredith Oakes's new translations of these rarely performed 17th century Spanish plays.

Lope de Vega's 1631 tragedy Punishment Without Revenge is regarded as a masterpiece of the times. It tells the story of an aging womaniser, the Duke of Ferrara, who decides to marry and provide himself with a legitimate heir, but discovers his beautiful bride has fallen for his illegitimate son. 

Punishment without Revenge runs until 14 March. The season also includes A Lady of Little Sense and Don Gil of the Green Breeches.

What the critics like

The lively cast shine in this Spanish tragedy and "tensions mount to a thrilling breaking point", says William Moore in the Evening Standard. Boswell's production convincingly explores the psychology of sexual jealousy and guilt, thanks in large part to Meredith Oakes's gripping translation.

Boswell's revival of Lope de Vega's revenge tragedy is "a darkly polished treat", says Tom Wicker in Time Out. It steams ahead in a swirl of fervid melodrama, sly humour and court intrigue, while Boswell's assured direction keeps things brisk, crisp and highly engaging.

The Spanish playwright's tale of forbidden love is a marathon of "achingly tense drama, interspersed with witty humour", says Georgia Snow on The Upcoming. A triumphant new translation of a Spanish classic with superb performances.

What they don't like

The story is a good one, but "the actors aren't clicking with each other", complains Dominic Maxwell in The Times. Sparks fail to fly and the show is out of rhythm, so much of this stilted evening leaves its unfortunate heroine to act in a vacuum.

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