The Tab Reviews: Inferno

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Inferno promised an enthralling theatrical spectacle, on which it has fully delivered. The creative team may not have intended to put on a black comedy, but Inferno is a hilarious, dark, moving drama, brilliantly choreographed by Henry Gould, whose labours on this production have paid off hugely. Performed without an interval, it’s a compelling 80 minutes.

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Iz McGrady makes her DST début as Bella, the high-flying lawyer abducted by Patrick Palmer’s sneering, slimy Devil. The play revolves around these two: McGrady gives Bella a naivety that stands in contrast to Palmer’s sadistic portrayal – his Devil has an almost perverted quality, revelling in the tortures around him.

Bella undergoes her own journey, most shockingly depicted when she encounters a rape victim (Olivia Swain) whose assailant she defended: it’s a sobering moment, and a realisation for Bella that even ‘doing her job’ has darker consequences.

The script works well: Flo Petrie, its writer, and the cast have clearly enjoyed devising many of the jokes, and the physical aspects of the production are well complemented by the imagery within the script. At times it retreats into some clichés and some well-worn rhetorical devices, but it is a fine effort.

The pit at the Assembly Rooms has been opened for a small band – a string quintet, with electric and bass guitars, and drums – and the music, specially composed by Emily Winters, draws on and parodies classical motifs (from Grieg, Vivaldi, Mussorgsky), and is well suited to the play. The only qualm would be the occasional moments when the music drowns out the dialogue, but this can be easily remedied.

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The ensemble all play their part, not only with their mimed contortions and torture, but individually: particularly good is Harry Twining as Judas, bemoaning his unfair representation in the Bible, but even more demonic is Fionna Monk, amongst other things playing Anger. Monk’s range is extraordinary, at times a soft, childish tone; at others, screaming madly – she relishes the energy of her role, and is simultaneously horrifying and humorous.

Inferno’s predecessors – especially Dante and Milton – have an allegorical strain, and it follows this tradition: its message – who needs Hell when Earth is bad enough? For all the jokes, the production reflects seriously on the way we live – Hell may be an outdated concept, but Inferno is a contemporary and urgent production.

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