The Duchess of Malfi

Sophie Okenedo

Sophie Okenedo

“In Roy McMillan’s radio version, Sophie Okonedo was notable for her self-control; despite continual attacks from Bosola (Bertie Carvel), Ferdinand (Jonathan Slinger) and the Cardinal (Oliver Senton), she remained true to her beliefs and desires. Her love for Antonio (Rory Kinnear) never wavered; likewise her determination to resist and say nothing. This was truly someone to be admired.

However McMillan’s production also underlined Webster’s basic misogyny. While the Duchess is certainly an admirable person, she has to live in a world whose male characters are given carte blanche to insult her in any way they wish.

As with many classic revivals I have heard this year, this Duchess proved a revelation. Only while listening to Webster’s dialogue could I understand how contradictory the play actually is, with its fundamentally misogynist content offset by a magnificent female central character. Perhaps it is this quality that renders it so enduringly popular for modern directors.”