The Changeling 2006

Tour Information

Beatrice Joanna is worshipped from afar by the ugly de Flores. He will do anything for her. Anything at all. Even dispose of her unwanted bridegroom. But the untouchable heiress has made one mistake, de Flores’ fee is not gold, but the beautiful Beatrice Joanna herself. Their famous descent into hell is relieved by passages of startling humour. Lunatics and ghosts people this disturbing thriller of horror, sex and obsession.


Think but upon the distance that creation/Set ‘twixt thy blood and mine, and keep thee there


Written by Middleton and Rowley, contemporaries of Shakespeare, The Changeling is one of the greatest plays in the English language.


Produced by Cheek by Jowl in a co-production with BITE:06 Barbican; Les Gémeaux/Sceaux/Scène Nationale; Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg.

Venue City Country Dates
Les Gémeaux Sceaux, Paris France 15/03/06 – 02/04/06
La Comédie de Reims Rheims France 05/04/06 – 07/04/06
Théatre de la Manufacture Nancy France 11/04/06 – 15/04/06
Grand Théatre de Luxembourg Luxembourg Luxembourg 24/04/06 – 25/04/06
Festival des Unions des Théatres de l’Europe Frankfurt Germany 29/04/06
Warwick Arts Centre Coventry UK 03/05/06 – 06/05/06
Barbican Centre London UK 11/05/06 – 10/06/06
Almagro Festival Madrid Spain 28/06/06 – 01/07/06
Grec Festival Barcelona Spain 12/07/06 – 15/07/06
Teatro Espanol Madrid Spain 19/07/06 – 22/07/06

Olivia Williams, Tom Hiddleston and Will Keen talk about their roles in the Changeling

Members of THE CHANGELING cast, Tom Hiddleston (Alsemero), Olivia Williams (Beatrice Joanna) and Will Keen (De Flores) talk in Madrid about reaching the end of the tour.

Tom HiddlestonAlsemero
Jonathan AnnanJasperino
Olivia WilliamsBeatrice-Joanna
Jennifer KiddDiaphanta
David CollingsVermandero
Will KeenDe Flores
Jim HooperAlibius
Tobias BeerLollio
Philip McGinleyPedro/Franciscus
Phil CheadleAntonio
Laurence SpellmanAlonzo
Clifford SamuelTomazo
Jodie McNeeIsabella

DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
Associate & Movement DirectorJane Gibson
Lighting DesignerJudith Greenwood
MusicCatherine Jayes
Technical DirectorSimon Bourne
CostumesAngie Burns
Assistant DirectorOwen Horsley
Sound DesignerGregory Clarke
Company ManagerMark Simpson
Technical Stage ManagerDougie Wilson
Deputy Stage ManagerClare Loxley
Assistant Stage ManagerMartha Mamo
Wardrobe ManagerVic Cree
Fight DirectorTerry King
(click to expand)

Le Figaro

Simplicity and rigour are the two words for Declan Donnellan, one of the foremost directors in Europe. The Englishman, who was first seen by French audiences eight years ago with his dazzling production of El Cid at the Avignon festival, continues to surprise with his impeccable directing and his immensely sober feeling for the stage. An impressively simple cage, with, at the back, a door marked emergency exit provides the scene for the entire plot. A device that might allow for some slips, which not everyone would control well. But Declan Donnellan has the talent to grasp our attention from the start. He takes us wherever he wants, through this dark narrative, dominated by desire, the lure of sex, and death.

Admittedly, the play by the Elizabethans Middleton and Rowley sometimes verges on blood and thunder. It is full of commotion, rape, murder, fire, mutilation. But no buffoonery or affectation disrupt this ceremonial. Donnellan the rigorous is always on the alert. The result is beautiful theatre, Shakespearian in its grandeur, in which the actors are quite simply phenomenal. They come onstage, in dark suits or black dresses, an orange plastic chair in hand. A consistent and serene ensemble, interpreting a score without a single wrong note. Honour to whom honour is due, William Keen in the role of the bestial de Flores is magnificent. In the darkness, furtive, mysterious, he waits his hour. When it comes, he reveals himself, relaxes, a menacing blaze. When crossed, he roars, nails the beauty to the floor, and, in a mixture of love and intoxication, rapes the woman for whom he risks damnation. Olivia Williams is the gentle creature overcome by destiny who metamorphoses into a criminal. Touching and terrible, she is a woman of many faces. Space is lacking to say more about Jennifer Kidd, David Collings, Tom Hiddleston, and Clifford Samuel, inspired servants of the play.

Marion Thébaud, translated by Harold Manning, 18.03.06

The Guardian

Madness, as much as passion, spins the plot in Middleton and Rowley's dark Jacobean masterpiece. And the supreme virtue of Declan Donnellan's Cheek by Jowl production is that the two qualities are virtually inseparable: love and lunacy join hands in a production marked by unity of purpose and what one character calls "shivering sweat".
The playing space itself is the bleakly functional Barbican backstage area. But we are instantly transported into an Alicante church when the black-suited ensemble turn their plastic chairs into prayer-stands. And the spatial grouping brilliantly illustrates the ensuing tragedy. Beatrice Joanna, the unstable heroine, is confronted by a male triangle consisting of her intended husband, Alonzo, her ardent admirer, Alsemero, and the pockmarked servant, De Flores, to whom she will end in erotic thrall. Indeed, by sanctioning De Flores's murder of Alonzo she famously becomes "the deed's creature".
The perennial problem lies in reconciling this grim tragedy with the comic subplot in which a madhouse keeper's wife is assailed by counterfeit lunatics. But Donnellan solves this at a stroke by turning the actors in the main story into the asylum inmates. Instantly we realise that Beatrice Joanna and her suitors are themselves close to madness. The heroine is a frenzied neurotic insanely attracted to the loathed De Flores. Alsemero, who she weds, keeps a well-stocked library of sex manuals. Even De Flores, though assuming a sardonic rationalism, cuts off dead men's fingers with gratuitously savage relish.
What might seem an intellectual conceit is made manifest by the fine acting. The great central scene between Beatrice Joanna and De Flores is here barely distinguishable from the madhouse interludes. Olivia Williams's wonderfully tortured heroine seems both pitiable and absurd in believing that she can satisfy her hired killer with her cheque book. And Will Keen's excellent De Flores suggests a besuited functionary demonically possessed by lust and violence. Using the space to great effect, he pursues his quarry like a bestial hunter.
For once the subplot scenes echo everything in the central story. Jim Hooper's asylum keeper seems positively dotty in his belief that he can keep Jodie McNee's raunchy young wife under lock and key, and Phil Cheadle and Philip McGinley as her pursuers respectively resemble a joke Hamlet and a pseudo Oscar Wilde. But the great moment comes when the inhabitants of both worlds join forces in a wild wedding dance that links love and madness, and suggests there is scarcely a cigarette-paper between them.

Michael Billington, 16.05.06

Sunday Times

If Strindberg had been a Jacobean, this is the sort of play he’d have written. Its ingredients are social resentment, lust spiced up by revulsion, love that never has a chance, black, gruesome humour and insanity. The Jacobeans were fascinated by madness. The word “changeling” meant idiot; also a fickle person, unpredictable, a waverer. Take that to an extreme and you get insanity. This is why the play’s subplot is set in an asylum: it’s both a parody of the main plot and a grotesque variation on it. Declan Donnellan’s modern-dress Cheek by Jowl production is set under and behind the Barbican stage, with precipitously steep seating: a bare, dark, cavernous space, ideal for nightmares. Donnellan reveals the play’s power by ignoring its baroque flamboyance.

The action is swift and fatal, like the characters. Olivia Williams’s Beatrice-Joanna is an imperious, fastidious virgin, a changeling of femininity who dabbles in lust and murder. De Flores is usually played as a brooding, ugly hunk exuding sexuality. Will Keen makes him another changeling, tight-lipped and tight-suited. The fierce sexual desire of a nervous, needy man is really shocking: both pitiable and ugly. This is a star performance. The place should be packed.

John Peter, 21.05.06

Time Out

Given that the Barbican’s supposed inflexibility was the reason for the RSC’s departure, it’s a surprise to see the space re-configured into a small arena theatre. What the RSC couldn’t manage, Cheek by Jowl has achieved, exploiting the expansive playing space to dramatic effect and wittily turning the centre’s notorious pillars into an Alicante castle. It’s the madhouse location of the subplot that prevails, however, ever present in the shape of a locked metal door, institutional desk and CCTV. The inference of Declan Donnellan’s concentrated production is clear, that those in the castle are as much fools and madmen as those in the asylum.

It’s in the former that Beatrice Joanna falls instantly in love with curly-haired Alsemero to the extent that she calls upon the person she hates most in the world to rid her of her fiancé. It’s fairly bonkers to imagine that a happy marriage will follow such a deed and Olivia Williams’s Beatrice appears too stupid to grasp the enormity of her demands. Apart from a few red blotches on his face, De Flores (Will Keen) hardly resembles the ‘standing toad pool’ that she refers to, instead he clinically goes about his task of removing the unwanted man. In a moment of black humour, he clumsily saws off the dead man’s finger to give as a token to the woman he adores.

The play’s fascination lies in the way that Beatrice’s disgust is transformed into a compulsive fascination and in how she has more in common with De Flores than she will ever have with the straight-laced Alsemero. The chemistry between Keen and Williams isn’t as toxic as it could be, or their passion as abandoned, but Donnellan’s production is so fast and so scarily lucid that they seem to hurtle towards their fate, their faces only occasionally caught in the broad horizontal bands of Judith Greenwood’s lighting. Cheek by Jowl’s new relationship with the Barbican gets off to a compelling start.

Jane Edwardes, 22.05.06

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