YORK Settlement Community Players are deep into rehearsals for John Webster's Jacobean slice of obsession, passion, blood and revenge The Duchess Of Malfi.

Sam Taylor is making his York directorial debut at the helm of a dynamic and modern new production in the York Theatre Royal Studio from March 6 to 16.

After Sam trained as an actor at the London Academy of Dramatic Art (LAMDA), his stage work has taken in multiple National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company productions and he now works all over Britain as a photographer, specialising in rehearsal and production photography for theatre, film and television.

He is promising a "fast-paced and exciting" account of Webster's 1614 revenge tragedy wherein two siblings seeking to prevent their sister from marrying the man she loves take increasingly desperate and grotesque steps to bring about her downfall.

"At its heart, The Duchess Of Malfi is very much akin to a modern day thriller," says Sam. "We've cut the text to concentrate purely on the central story: how the Duchess’s love for Antonio causes her brothers to tear down her life in revenge.

"We'll be presenting that story in a little over two hours, and it's a fabulous, accessible introduction to anyone who hasn’t experienced much classical theatre. Webster’s play is full of some of the most beautiful language in the history of theatre. The themes of the play are dark, but some of the writing is extremely funny. We stage the play in a slick and modern way: we want to grab you by the collar and take you with us on a journey."

Taylor's cast combines experienced actors from the York theatre community, as well as brand new faces. Amanda Dales will play The Duchess; Harry Revell, Ferdinand; David Phillipps, Antonio; Maurice Crichton, Bosola; Shona Read Lang, Julia; Mike Hickman, Delio: Joy Warner, Silvio/The Executioner; Paul French, The Cardinal, and

Margaret Hillier, Cariola.

"While maintaining the high production standards of previous Settlement shows, ‘Malfi’ will push things forward stylistically," says Sam. "I really want to challenge the actors to push themselves; to try new things and to work in new and exciting ways. I want to present something remarkable.

"We have an excellent cast, as well as a technical team that's coming up with some inspiring, awe-inducing work with both lighting and sound design. Dr Jake Berenbeim is creating a soundscape for the show that's worth the admission alone."

Tickets for the 7.45pm evening performances and 2pm matinee on March 16 are on sale at £14 and £12 on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Charles Hutchinson