The psychological simplicity of the play means there is much declamation, little discernible thought process. Jodie McNee’s Belvidera is the production’s Liverpudlian saving grace – delivering lines that are more paste than diamond with a fervour as intense as Saint Joan on the stake. Michael Grady-Hall’s Jaffeir, though, is as wet as they come, no match for McNee’s fiery persona, and sparking little from Stephen Fewell’s mannish-dullish Pierre.
Adding distraction rather than clarification is the decision to draw inspiration from retro ‘cyberpunk’ cinema – Venetian carnival masks sit within a world of neon, flickering computer imagery, retro clothing choices and the scent of American blockbusters past. Making heavy weather of the light relief, John Hodgkinson plays a randy old senator seeking sado-masochistic treatment at the hands of his contempt-filled mistress; at one point he strips to quiver away in a PVC gimp suit; not a pretty sight.
All in all, deathly.
Until Sept 7. Tickets: 01789 331111; rsc.org.uk