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BWW Review: 'TIS PITY SHE'S A WHORE, Tristan Bates Theatre Theatre, 29 August 2016

Lazarus Theatre Company's 'Tis Pity She's A Whore merges John Ford's gory and uncomfortable 17th-century classic with the current trend for immersive theatre - once in the auditorium, audience members are greeted by a butler, who proffers a tray of wine. Even the traverse format of the staging, with a large table placed centre stage, seems to invite the audience to take part in this notoriously taboo drama.

This production does not necessarily deal with all the intricacies of Ford's play, but focuses on siblings Giovanni and Annabella. Much to his initial despair, Giovanni finds himself drawn to his younger sister, who seems to independently reciprocate these feelings. With the encouragement of Annabella's maid and despite the warnings of Giovanni's confidante, Friar Bonaventura, the two become lovers. What follows is a devastating examination of jealousy and physical possession, to the extent that their incest becomes the least of the audience's worries.

Much of Ford's masterful script is cut (the evening runs at just under 1 hour 45, with no interval), and a few plot aspects seem rather unexplained - to the point that those who do not know the show might benefit from reading a synopsis beforehand. These drastic cuts also inhibited character development, but director Ricky Dukes must be praised for creating such a bold production.

The cast all participate in several movement sequences, which show much imagination on Dukes's part and greatly contributed to the show's atmosphere. Sorcha Corcoran's set contains a fascinating collection of anachronisms, and a symbol of the play's climax sits under the table for the show's duration, stalking even its almost romantic moments.

There is also a particularly interesting piece of colour-blind casting, with Prince Plockey playing Giovanni and Lucy Walker-Evans Annabella. While their relationship might seem more eerie were the two of the same ethnicity and so seemed more obviously like siblings, perhaps this is a sign of great progression in casting, which is still woefully exterior in so many cases.

Walker-Evans and Plockey gave strong performances, though the show was perhaps stolen by Stephen MacNeice, who makes a wonderfully deceitful Vasquez. Sasha Wilson was also particularly interesting as Hippolita.

All in all, this production does not fully explore the language or characters of Ford's text - it doesn't even seem to quite comment on the lovers' relationship in the way Dukes suggests in his programme notes. It is, though, a vibrant engagement with this wonderful story. The production's use of movement and (sometimes overexcited) lighting beautifully depict the social disintegration of incest and murder. It's absolutely worth a watch.

Photo Credit: Adam Trigg

'Tis Pity She's a Whore runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 10 September 2016 and is not suitable for young audiences.


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