Zinnie Harris reinvigorates the Duchess of Malfi for the feminist uprising era

Zinnie Harris reinvigorates the Duchess of Malfi for the feminist uprising era

credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

The playwright adapts the classic play by John Webster, starring Kirsty Stuart, with lots of blood and intensity

Playwright Zinnie Harris is no stranger to updating classic plays for contemporary audiences. Her recent triumphs, This Restless House and Rhinoceros resurrected Aeschylus and Ionesco to great critical acclaim. And now, her adaptation of Jacobean revenge tragedy The Duchess [of Malfi] promises to draw out John Webster's themes of female agency, power structures and family relationships; and with plenty of bloodshed and intensity.

'In this #MeToo age of feminist uprising in the face of toxic masculinity,' she says, 'it now feels like the time to revisit this incredible, brutal story of female determination in the face of patriarchal power.' Following the Duchess' attempt to remarry, her brothers decide to take drastic action to keep the family line 'pure'. Justice is eventually served, but only after insanity and bloodshed destroy the family and the state.

A superb collaborative team has been put together for the production, including Kirsty Stuart in the titular role, dramaturg Frances Poet (who previously worked with Stuart on Poet's own play Gut), and Adam Best, George Costigan and Angus Miller in supporting roles. Harris is a writer of visceral, often shocking texts, and this adaptation is sure to be no exception, unflinchingly putting the Duchess' cross-class romance and brutal downfall within a contemporary context.

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 8 Jun; Tramway, Glasgow, Wed 4–Sat 21 Sep.

The Duchess [of Malfi]

Based on John Webster’s play, Zinnie Harris’ adaptation explores male rage and female resistance as two brothers try to control their sister with fatal results.

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