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Changeling, The (1965)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment ltd

Main image of Changeling, The (1965)
For Blood and Thunder, Granada Television for ITV, tx. 4/1/1965
80 minutes, black & white
DirectorDerek Bennett
ProducerPhilip Mackie
AdaptationPhilip Mackie
Original PlayThomas Middleton
 William Rowley

Cast: Derek Godfrey (De Flores); Kika Markham (Beatrice); Hal Hamilton (Alsemero); Nerys Hughes (Diaphanta); Patrick Troughton (Tomazo)

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In 17th century Italy, Beatrice, a noblewoman, persuades the lovestruck De Flores to murder her unwanted suitor, Alonzo, so that she can marry her lover, Alsemero.

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Discovered among a collection of previously missing British television drama at the US Library of Congress in 2010, 'The Changeling' was one of two Jacobean plays by Thomas Middleton produced by Granada in January 1965 under the series title Blood and Thunder. Both this and 'Women Beware Women' (tx. 11/1/1965) were adapted and produced by Philip Mackie, Granada's head of drama, who was responsible for much of the company's 'quality' literary drama in the 1960s. In adapting the play for television Mackie dispensed with the comic asylum secondary plot from Middleton and Rowley's original play and compressed some of the action in order to reduce the length to 75 minutes. While this results in a slightly perfunctory narrative in places, the key elements of murder, intrigue and duplicity remain.

The production was directed by Derek Bennett, whose television career began at Granada (where he directed, among many other productions, the first episodes of Coronation Street, ITV, 1960-), and was recorded entirely in Granada's studios in Manchester. Bennett makes good use of a split-level set designed by Peter Phillips, with a number of scenes shot from above, in long shot, giving the impression of eavesdropping on conversations as the scenarios of intrigue and duplicity unfold. A high-contrast lighting design adds to the atmosphere of deception and dark deeds that permeates the play, the creative staging successfully conveying the labyrinthine complexity of the castle of Alicante within which the tragedy unfolds.

Kika Markham is excellent as Beatrice, whose 'changeling' nature causes her to switch allegiance to the unattractive, murderous De Flores (Derek Godfrey) as she pursues her ambition to rid herself of Alonzo and marry Alsemero, only to get herself embroiled in a situation that spirals out of her control, resulting in her inevitable death at the hands of De Flores in a denouement that fulfils all the expectations of Jacobean tragedy.

Lez Cooke

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Video Clips
1. A murder for Beatrice (3:51)
2. 'You shall have your wishes, as I'll have mine' (2:23)
3. The deaths of Beatrice and De Flores (5:43)
Troughton, Patrick (1920-1987)
Rediscovered TV Drama