Intrigue/Love (Schiller) Southwark Playhouse 24 July


Ferdinand (Cerith Flynn) and Louisa (Alice Henley)

The Faction’s new show at the Southwark Playhouse is of course an adaptation of Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe, which also served as the source for Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

The action is as follows. Ferdinand, son of the Chancellor to the Duke of a German duchy (here rendered as Hamburg) is in love with Louisa, the daughter of a musician.  Worm, the Chancellor’s secretary would also like to marry her.  He gets short shrift.  The Chancellor, whose career has been built on crime and deceit, wants Ferdinand to marry Lady Milford, the Duke’s discarded mistress.  After more direct attempts to separate them have failed, Worm suggests they use intrigue:  imprison Louisa’s father and so coerce her into writing what will be taken as a love-letter to another man.

Tableau beginning second half

The second half begins with the characters reading multiple copies of Louisa’s letter, as above.  Lady Milford summons Louisa to try to take her into her service and win Ferdinand from her.  After Louisa will not be tempted, she resolves to leave Hamburg and her life of unearned privilege–also removing from her face the white make-up she has (like the other corrupted characters) been wearing up to that point.  Ferdinand visits Louisa’s family, gives her father a bag of gold, and then poisons her and himself.  Released from her vow by death, Louisa tells him how she was forced to write the letter.  The Chancellor burst in–Ferdinand curses him and dies.  The Chancellor says he will finish Worm and Worm says he will make known the Chancellor’s crimes.

Steven Blake was magnificently evil as the Chancellor, and if possible Gareth Fordred was even more unpleasant as a Worm clad in black leather.  Kate Sawyer did a very good job as Lady Milford–probably the most interesting character in the play–but I’m afraid that Alice Henley as Louisa  didn’t really impress me as a romantic heroine.  While I appreciated the athleticism of Cerith Flynn in running several times round the playing area in his desperate rush to Miller’s house, he struck me as a nice young lad in a bit of a pickle (and given to some lofty outpourings) rather than anything else.

Worm, Louisa and the fatal letter

The production was very sensible and direct, with good use made of chairs (and music) and of costumes to suggest who was who.  There’s a very good video trailer (the source of the images above) here–it’s well-done and it gives you a good idea of what the thing is about.

As I cycled home afterwards, I thought (very much not for the first time) that the idea of drama is to show that people can be better, braver, greater, more beautiful than they are–so I think Schiller would have called this show a success.


I have now corrected a couple of factual errors in the original version of this posting.

Many of these characters also have their equivalents in Don Carlos, I think : Chancellor–Philip II; Ferdinand–Don Carlos; Lady Milford–Eboli; Worm–Confessor/Grand Inquisitor.

Update 29 July

Southwark Playhouse has now announced the following via Facebook and Twitter:  want to see Intrigue/Love for just £10? Use the codeword “INTRIGUE” when booking online or on the phone (020 7407 0234).

There is a remarkable 5-star review in Russian here.  ‘Remarkable’ not because I disagree with it but because it contains absolutely no evidence that the reviewer has seen this production…

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