The Broken Heart

Marking the end of the 2014-15 winter season in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, John Ford’s The Broken Heart is a tragedy set in ancient Sparta following Penthea and Orgilus, a loving couple who are made to part by Penthea’s brother, who then forces her to marry a jealous old man. Orgilus disguises himself as a scholar, watches, waits, and takes revenge.

I didn’t really research the play before I saw it and this proved to be a mistake, as I found myself rather confused during the performance. I think this is a play that would repay reading and closer study. However, I managed to gather the gist of the story, and enjoyed the performances, particularly those of Owen Teale as the almost comically horrid Bassanes and Brian Ferguson as the understandably vengeful Orgilus. As usual, the revenge tragedy worked very well in the confines of the candlelit playhouse.

I didn’t find this play as gripping as The Duchess of Malfi or as funny as The Knight of the Burning Pestle, the previous plays of the era I have seen here. Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile watch for fans of revenge tragedy.


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