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Lucia Mastrantone describes the most gripping thing about Bell Shakespeare’s latest production as a, “world that John Webster’s [Shakespeare contemporary] made in this story. It’s a really bleak place for humans, quite gothic and extreme.”

The production begins as a love story but slowly unravels to a bloody tale of greed, incest and family politics gone mad. Along with Mastrantone who plays the character Julia, artistic director John Bell directs his daughter Lucy Bell in their second collaboration in the company’s 21-year history.

The play has often been called a feminist piece, and while Mastrantone hesitates to say so she agrees its themes definitely empower women and point out the misogyny of the times. “The duchess has this incredible light that all of these men are trying to assassinate,” she explains.   As for her own character, “She is someone who is driven by powerful men and by desire to some point and she uses her sex, as a lot of women in those royal situations do. Their currency is sexuality.”

“They’ve gone for the guts of what they feel the play is about and compressed the characters. It’s like a concentrated stock of what was a big soup. It’s much more hard hitting and powerful. It’s going to be very intense.”

Jul 6-Aug 5, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Macquarie St, Sydney, $33-72, 9250 7777, sydneyoperahouse.com.au