“In what a shadow, or deep pit of darkness,
doth womanish and fearful mankind live.”
In conformist 1950s London, when sexual outsiders still risk jail simply for being themselves, an uptown socialite goes looking for love in the secret queer spaces of the East End.
But when her rich and powerful family discover her double life among the drag queens, rent boys and gangsters, they will go to any lengths to protect themselves from scandal.
Cover Her Face re-cast Webster’s Duchess Of Malfi as the trans heroine of a 1950s ‘honour killing’ tragedy in a site-specific staging at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club in February 2014, 400 years after first staging of the Jacobean classic.
Supported by Arts Council England and a successful Kickstarter campaign, the show was the centrepiece of a multi-stranded project that also included Uncover Her Face, an evening of performance and conversation about queer life in the 1950s at Dalston’s Vogue Fabrics; and Malfi Is Burning, a drag ball at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club hosted by performance artist Amantopet.
|The Duchess||La JohnJoseph|
|The Minister||Jack Johns|
|Directors||Daniel Fulvio & Martin Moriarty|
|Lighting design||Michael Paget|
|Stage manager||Will Mcleod|
|Poster design||The Design Mill|
|Press||Arthur Leone PR|
Finally, The Duchess of Malfi makes sense. To modern eyes, the inexplicable hatred of two brothers for their sister can seem baffling, but when it becomes their defiantly Other brother, things fall into place perfectly. This ridiculously sexy production moves the play from a long ago Italian Court to London, 1959 …. You never feel that Webster’s play has been hamfistedly rewritten in a Dalston kitchen by a group of people struggling to fit a clever idea to modern self-identification politics. It just works.
In this touching, raw play, theatre company Inky Cloak have transformed John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi into a rich fable on the transgender issues that so spook the modern world …. With a nine strong all-male cast, this play is particularly muscular, brash and fiercely physical. Expect to be whirled away at the boldness of its sexuality and its feistiness. Under the direction of Daniel Fulvio and Martin Moriarty, Inky Cloak have expertly layered two very similar stories on top of each other, from time periods over three hundred years apart, with a passion that is incredibly affecting and a theatre space thrillingly intimate.
Alex Finch, The Upcoming
Daniel Fulvio and Martin Moriarty’s reworking for Inky Cloak is a bold move but one which pays richly evocative rewards …. JohnJoseph presents the Duchess with an uncluttered simplicity, a person with needs like any other and determined to fulfil them, especially in the form of the irresistible connection that sparks with Tom Campion’s Antonio. And that is one of the production’s major strengths – for all of the queering of the pitch, the emotions that shine through apply to us all whether LGBTQ or straight as a die. All-consuming passion, crippling jealousy, tender love, fierce rage – this is the stuff of all our lives.
Ian Foster, There Ought To Be Clowns
Main image: TomCampion (Antonio), Cover Her Face, February 2014, by Leon Csernohlavek