'Tis Pity She's a Whore

Sat 6th – Sat 20th August 2016

reviews

Becky Wilson

at 22:27 on 17th Aug 2016

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With betrayal, blood, and graphic scenes of incest, the aptly named Wanton Theatre Company has produced a straight take on John Ford’s disturbing Jacobean tragedy. 'Tis Pity She's a Whore' depicts the forbidden love affair of siblings Annabella and Giovanni. This parody of Romeo and Juliet, which features the interventions of a covetous nurse and the feeble interventions of a failing Friar, exposes the corruption and grime which seeps into all levels of society.

The cast certainly deliver a play which exposes the horrific darkness in human nature, but I fear they go too far. The directorial decision to depict every single character in such an unsympathetic light does not quite work; it leaves me feeling cold, with no personal investment in any of the characters. Although clearly a talented actor, Eleanor Burke is nasty and sneering as the lovesick Annabella; I therefore struggle to feel even remotely upset by her violent death. Moreover, presumably because of time constraints, elements of the play which would have fully explained characters’ motives are omitted (or, indeed, lost in translation). Vasquez’ malignancy is apparently motiveless, and likewise, the warped relationship between Hippolita, her husband and Soranzo seemed utterly unbelievable and bizarre. Presumably, Ford’s initial intention with this play was to provide audiences with a cathartic relief. Because of this production’s incoherence, I leave the theatre feeling a lot more stressed than I did walking in.

The play is, nevertheless, entertaining – and it is a testament to the talent of this cast that they are able to redeem most of its flaws. Louis Catliff, as Giovanni, is undoubtedly the strongest link. He manages to somehow highlight the glimmering fragments of Ford’s poetry, whilst speaking with the cadences of natural speech. Indeed, the ensemble’s predominantly naturalistic performances are all impressive, considering the melodramatic subject matter. Also noteworthy is the villainous Vasquez (Jack Briggs), whose oozing confidence and comic timing provide the audience with miraculous, much needed light relief.

There are too many gaps in this production. Without any character to identify with or care about, I leave the carnage of the conclusion with a bitter taste in my mouth. Nevertheless, the production is slick and professional (with the exception of some odd costume choices) and the acting seamless. This offering of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore’ is a late night hour of entertaining and twisted, albeit confusing, Jacobean drama.

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Eloise Heath

at 01:18 on 18th Aug 2016

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The aptly named Wanton Theatre deliver strong performances across the board, doing a pretty classy job of this archetypal revenge tragedy. This production offers a different dynamic to many other renderings of '’Tis Pity She’s a Whore', drawing out a really refreshing humour. However, the text itself has been massively abridged and, inevitably, feels rushed throughout. The horrific elements of the plot needed more gusto; the website warns of gore, but it’s relatively tame on this front, leaving the production lacking a little zest.

'’Tis Pity' is the archetypal revenge tragedy. Like a filthy, violent Romeo and Juliet, we see a brother and sister embark on an incestuous affair. I really needn’t expand: needless to say, it ends in tears (and blood and dramatic death speeches). Boasting a sword fight, a poisoning, a strangling, the odd mutilation and a batch of stabbings, it does well on the revenge tragedy checklist. The body count is high, the humour bawdy and the plot continually thickening.

The cast is strong. Louis Catliff has a hard job as Giovanni, the tragic hero, as his character’s ark is truncated by the edit. Whilst he largely pulls it off, occasionally the heightened pace manifests itself in slightly gabbled lines. Hannah Raymond-Cox deserves a mention for her turn as Hippolita. She does justice to such a meaty character, scorned and scheming, and crashes the wedding masterfully with her bitter rant. She steals a few scenes, as does Isabelle Duff’s raunchy Puttana, sarcastically slow clapping after Anabella loses her virginity.

The best thing about this production is the humour drawn out by director and cast. Revenge drama can be inherently silly, the plots always based around hyperbolic escalation. Wanton Theatre use humour to effectively balance the bombastic elements of the plot. The comedic flourishes have a great energy, but irritatingly this isn’t matched in the play's really horrific moments, the exception being Noah Liebmiller’s understated yet disturbing communion scene. I hoped that the play would enact the famous horror film technique of crafting a laugh before a scream for added effect. The laughs are good, but the shocks never build to realise their full potential.

The original has been overzealously condensed, but overall, this production is pretty slick and quite good fun.

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