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'They're the laziest people I've ever come across.' Not a tirade against the Arts Council, but actor James Menzies Kitchen (right) on the characters in Webster's The White Devil. 'Out of sheer boredom, Brachiano chooses to court Vittoria, who becomes a whore for similar reasons. Flamineo prostitutes his sister, and a dreadful chain of events is set in motion all because they have nothing better to do with their lives.'

'It's amazing how different it is to Shakespeare. It isn't as beautifully crafted, there isn't the wealth of subtext. I'm used to a character developing throughout a play. Webster doesn't write like that. You just have to play each scene on its own terms and let the play take care of itself. All the the time, he's going for a broader perspective. He's been criticised for stealing from Shakespeare. There's a scene with Cornelia which is incredibly reminiscent of the death of Ophelia, written only twenty years earlier. But I think it's similar to the technique Eliot used in The Waste Land. He is deliberately using other material, alluding to known dramatic ideas. It creates a sense of the larger reality of a scene. And it's fun.'

The White Devil has just opened at the Southwark Playhouse, a small, converted Victorian warehouse complete with original pillars. The seats are church pews. Given the play's preoccupation with religion, lust and death, it's all highly appropriate.

(Photograph omitted)

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