CARAVAGGIO: BETWEEN THE DARKNESS  ****

THEATRE

TheSPACE ON THE MILE (V39)      14.55

AUGUST 4TH TO 26TH (NOT 13TH)

Rapid action begins this play, as the actors surge across the small, darkened stage. Soon we are in Caravaggio’s threatened space. He is wanted for the death, maybe murder, of a man he has crossed. His enemies will see to it that he meets a gruesome end if he does not leave Rome. He is very reluctant to leave his home city, and to leave loyal friends such as Lena (an intense and effective Dorothy Jones) or the arms of his enthusiastic servant (Danny Hetherington, who brings much vigour to the different roles he is called upon to play.) And yes, there is man-on-man snogging very early on in this play. We are left in no doubt that Caravaggio had enthusiasm for his fellow humans, of whatever gender.

We see Caravaggio move to Naples and then on to Malta. In Naples he is housed by fellow artist Carracci, whose work he criticises whilst expecting continued help and shelter. Alex Marci, in his portrayal of Caravaggio, shows us someone who has a very high opinion of himself and who feels that others should accept him at his own evaluation and behave accordingly. His performance is very vigorous from the outset, and he appears as optimistic about his ability to deal with whatever fate throws his way.

There is considerable discussion of the art of Caravaggio and Carracci and others, and we are invited to imagine what is discussed. If you are familiar with the works of Caravaggio that probably helps. (There is a large exhibition “Beyond Caravaggio” in Edinburgh at present – you may want to move between the play and the exhibition)

In Malta, Caravaggio faces the austere authority of de Wignancourt (Michal Nowak) who is very pleased to have his portrait painted by Caravaggio, but Caravaggio’s presumption again appears when he demands to be made a Knight of Malta.

Does he survive his various tribulations? The loyal Cardinal del Monte (Richard Unwin) helps smooth Caravaggio’s passage at different points, whilst not being able to contain his exasperation at times,

Even if you do know about Caravaggio’s life in some detail, the swift and determined action of this play will sweep you along. The small, dark space in which it is played out is appropriate for the mood and drama. This is a play that will hold you tight and the hour will pass very quickly.

Tony Challis