Thursday, 30 October 2014

Theatre review: 'Tis Pity She's a Whore

I'm reading A Game of Thrones at the moment, so blond siblings shagging each other is something of a theme as I get to the Swanamaker, whose first full winter season opens with 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. John Ford's tragedy sees a number of suitors wooing the wealthy and beautiful Annabella (Fiona Button,) who has little time for any of them. That's because her interests lie elsewhere, with her own brother Giovanni (Max Bennett.) When he admits he feels the same way, the two start a torrid and, of course, secret affair. Annabella continues to turn away her suitors, until she discovers she's carrying her brother's baby, and quickly consents to marry Soranzo (Stefano Braschi.) The deceit can't last long though, and with Soranzo having a few skeletons in his own closet, a traditional Jacobean bloodbath can't be far off.

Michael Longhurst's production gets the season off to a great start, relishing the gore and the extremity of Ford's play, and making for such pace it feels much shorter than its three-hour running time.


What's also notable here, that I haven't seen explored to this extent before, is how much humour there is in the play. It's in no small part thanks to Globe stalwart James Garnon getting the role of the idiotic suitor Bergetto, and giving a typically no-holds-barred performance that sees him molesting the audience in the expensive seats as much as he does the groundlings every summer. But the comedy is far from restricted to Garnon, with every instance of humour in the script carefully mined; Morag Siller finds the comic potential in the maid Puttana's shamelessness. Arguably this lightness of touch takes away from the shock value of the incestuous plot, but I think it's a fair trade for how well the evening works overall.


A strong supporting cast includes Noma Dumezweni as Hippolita, a widow with a grudge against Soranzo; while Philip Cumbus, always one to find a new angle on a character, makes the treacherous, unpredictable servant Vasquez downright sociopathic - but with a twisted sense of loyalty.


Alex Lowde's costume designs mix Jacobean styles with very modern fabrics, lending something to the hyper-real feel of a production that revels in the physical: It's sexy, with a fair amount of flesh on show at times, but it also glories in the grand guignol of the piece - the grotesque birthday party is memorably, breathlessly staged and provides a fitting climax to a perfectly-paced, exciting show.

'Tis Pity She's a Whore by John Ford is booking until the 7th of December at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Running time: 3 hours including interval.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. Does Max go full frontal in this?

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    Replies
    1. If you were sitting audience right directly by the bed you might catch a glimpse of something, but he covers up very quickly.

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