‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore Review

Tristan Bates Theatre 23 August – 10 September.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Lazarus Theatre Company have a growing reputation for energising and exploring plays in exciting new ways, and their adaptation of John Ford’s classic is impressive in many ways.

Ricky Dukes’ adaptation of John Ford’s classic, squeezed into 90 action packed minutes, wisely cuts most of the sub plots involving minor characters, and instead concentrates on the original scenes that drive the action forward. Giovanni and Annabella are in love. They are also brother and sister. Giovanni keeps running off to discuss and justify the relationship with his tutor, while Annabella has earthier discussions about love with her guardian, Putana. Elder brother Florio is busy organising Annabella’s marriage and her suitors, Soranzo and Bergetto are planning their moves. When the truth about the siblings’ relationship is discovered, Soranzo seeks revenge. The themes of incest, revenge and violence are highly stylised in this production, but the cartoonish presentation doesn’t dilute most of the impact.

Prince Plockley and Lucy Walker-Evans make a heart-breaking couple. Their delivery of Ford’s language is crisp and they both capture the turmoil of their characters in moving performances that transcend some messy collaborative moments. Luke Deeley as Bergetto, the play’s Fool, is a scream, revelling in the buffoonery of his character. The interplay between him and the fantastic RJ Seeley as his longsuffering sister Donado, is a comic highlight. Sasha Wilson as Hippolita, Soranzo’s jilted lover, chews the scenery sashaying around the stage plotting her revenge, and I can understand why Dukes didn’t kill her off as Ford did.

The company’s love of physical and visual collaboration, usually their strength, is the major weakness in this production however. The traverse stage is dominated by a long dinner table, with most action taking place with characters interacting from either end, with only the most intimate moments happening in the centre. The ensemble sitting around looking cool in sunglasses works, but when intense exchanges are taking place on the table, it can be distracting and a slightly questionable choice to have other actors moving around the space to music. The most memorable parts of the play were the quiet ones when the characters were just speaking to each other. The opening and closing dance/fight numbers felt a little like a cop out. The subplots of Richardetto (who was kept in, but his reasons for murder never fully explained) and multiple deaths were all crammed in in the final, frankly messy, scene. Again, I can see what Dukes and the company were aiming for, as it led to an extremely moving and visually stunning final moment with Giovanni and Annabella surrounded by death, but it just felt a bit rushed to me. Although I did love the way the production kept the heart on the knife image – bloodless, but still deeply shocking.

Jai Morjaria’s lighting is, again, highly stylised and unsubtle, but works really well. The only thing that grated was the thunder roll that accompanied every change – a bit too much for me.

I knew that Lazarus would give ‘Tis Pity a kick up the bum and present a wildly different production from others I have seen, but I really didn’t think I’d enjoy it. Well, I was wrong. Although I think that the company should have pared back their physical approach in some scenes, the production as a whole is engaging and exciting. This is a challenging reinvention for Fordophiles, but a wonderful introduction to Ford for a brand new audience.

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