Until 21 December as part of the Spanish Golden Age Season

The Ustinov Studio continually delivers challenging, little seen work and this passionate play is certainly the darker side of the Spanish season, directed by Laurence Boswell.

In this new translation by Meredith Oakes, the Mediterranean passions run high, honour is paramount and the similarities to much modern drama are still evident. This play is considered one of the greatest tragic dramas of the Spanish Golden Age. The Duke who is a renowned womaniser, leading a bawdy unconventional life has an illegitimate son (Federico), whom he loves dearly and wishes to succeed him. However, Cassandra, The Duchess of Mantua is sent to be the Duke’s bride to provide him with a rightful heir. Her beauty overwhelms Federico and in her arranged loveless marriage, Cassandra finds a passion, from which there is little chance of return.

The performances are strong, Federico (Nick Barber) is a passionate young man torn between the loyalty to his father and love for his new step mother. Cassandra (Frances Mcnamee) a strong willed, feisty noble woman whose path is set to fail.

It is down to Federico’s servant Batin (Simon Scardifield) whose direct and simplistic delivery allows the most humour and deconstructs some of the more florid language with huge success.

The imposing black and gold set with little colour or warmth creates the sterile world with only the red belonging to the prostitute Cintia (Hedydd Dylan) the world of the theatre, then saved for the final tableau which was too stylised to have real impact.

This has been a highly successful season; a very enlightening post show discussion created some pertinent questions from the audience and allowed a good insight into how the actors had approached the work.

Certainly worth watching if you have seen either of the other works, if you start with this one make an effort to see one of the others to lighten the load a little.

Petra Schofield