At the heart of Schiller's Don Carlos, translated here by Peter Oswald, lie the sort of eternal verities that wouldn't be out of place on The Waltons. Don't use brute force when calm words will do. Don't believe councillors who carry their emotions on their sleeve. Don't lie. Don't steal. And, most importantly, don't go off with the woman who's about to marry your son.
It's a measure of the clarity and tightness of Stuart Here's production that a simple belief in trust, faith and selflessness can be wrested from a tale frantic with the contortions of court protocol and the clashes of armour-plated argument - not to mention a series of sexual misunderstandings that would do justice to a Whitehall farce. It's a complicated play - what with all those misplaced letters and quicksilver changes of mind - but it's physically static, the action contained within the walls of Philip II of Spain's court.
The cast, headed by Piers Gibbon (as Don Carlos), storming on and off the stark set to conduct strangulated meetings and deliver lip-pursing monologues, excellently convey the sense of claustrophobia as King Philip increasingly loses control of the edges of his empire and the edges of his mind. From time to time, they also make you laugh.
To 12 September (081-741 8701)
The staging of Schiller's Don Carlos at the Lyric Studio, Hammersmith, is presented by Start Here Productions, not as stated in our Notice on Tuesday