"Atmospheric, but somewhat clunky dialogue"
by Rebecca Wall for remotegoat on 16/04/12

The Devil in Love, based on an eighteenth-century French novel, is a Faustian tale with a twist. Alvaro, a Neapolitan soldier hungry for knowledge and power, persuades his more experienced friends to teach him the incantation which will summon demons to perform his every whim. Faced with the ugliness of the spirit which appears, however, he bids it return in a more pleasing form. The beautiful young girl whose shape the spirit takes seems to be both meek and obedient (in short, the eighteenth-century man's perfect woman!), but as the play progresses Alvaro, and those who surround him in Naples and Venice, begin to harbour suspicions as to her true nature.

The play opened promisingly, its use of candles and incantations certainly building suspense and expectation, but unfortunately its dialogue was often clunky, and not helped by the diction of the actors themselves. At times there was perhaps unintentional hilarity, particularly in the tale's representation of women, who it would seem can only be murderous courtesans, fiendish demons, or angelic mothers to be accompanied by the strains of Ave Maria! The chemistry between Alvaro and Biondetta wasn't quite believable, leading to a particularly excruciating sex scene, though the Venetian courtesan Olympia simply oozed sensuality, helped by a delicious costume. Overall, the play was definitely worth a look, despite its shortcomings, and has rather piqued my curiosity for the original novel.

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