The Rape of Artemisia Gentileschi

Fri 4th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Nina Attridge

at 11:43 on 19th Aug 2017

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This show left a deeply unpleasant taste in my mouth- and not just because in a mere 45 minutes it covered: rape, torture, incest and murder. The emotive opening monologue raised my hopes and assured my faith in the quality of acting to come. This was setting me up for a fall. It all went downhill as such difficult themes to tackle were approached with, to be frank, insensitivity. The attempt to insert wit into such a brutally violent play was misguided and painful to watch. The cheap-looking costumes only added further to my constant awareness of the fabrication happening before me. Throughout I felt as though as I was being groomed to like two intensely dislikeable characters. The acting was also sometimes lacking. Monologues were where these two actresses impressed me, but the relationship between the two of them was unconvincing, and dialogue was clunky. What should have been an immensely striking performance lacked intensity as the combination of staging, costume, overly-exposing lighting and acting failed to come together to any real effect. To its credit- the first 20 minutes or so had me hanging on their every word. I was full of optimism for the second half of the show (its saving grace was the fact it lasted no longer than 45 minutes), but this never came to fruition. For someone with a keen interest in this brand of drama, I could imagine the show would be a dream come true. It portrayed the story of the first fully documented rape trial, and even managed to ask some questions still relevant in the 21st Century. The most notable of these, was ‘why does so often the raped ‘fall in love’ with the rapist?’. While this was infuriating to watch, it is an interesting thread to pull. The imagery and language of art used was the only element of the play which truly transported me to its setting. I left the theatre with a compelling desire to seek out the beautiful art to which they were referring but, alas, I cannot give writer Joan Greening credit for the work of the great artists of the Baroque period. I am certain that this show is for someone, but that someone is sadly not me.

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Mark Bogod

at 11:47 on 19th Aug 2017

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There are those who come to the Fringe for the comedy. There are those who come to the Fringe for the music. Then there are those who come to the Fringe for the dramas about sexual violence among Baroque artists. If you fall into the third category, you might be left somewhat disappointed with this year’s offering, ‘The Rape of Artemisia Gentileschi’, written and directed by Joan Greening. While not entirely without redeeming qualities, this is nevertheless a play I would discourage you from seeing.

The play starts off powerfully by quoting the artist Artemisia Gentileschi’s original testimony in the court case surrounding her rape. This, however, is by some margin the high point of the play. The rest of the action unfolds 35 years later after the death of Gentileschi’s rapist. In this two-woman show, we see Tuzia, who had been Gentlieschi’s chaperone in her youth, come to find her. The ensuing argument forms the great bulk of the play, but is at no point moving or interesting. Instead, the two characters go in circles, the action never moving far beyond the questions and emotions presented in the first five minutes. A major problem is that the references to a past the audience never sees do not make the complicated backstory at all vivid, and the stream of references to other artists serves only to confuse matters further. The real problem then with ‘The Rape of Artemisia Gentileschi’ is the script, which is not only unenlightening about the premise of the action, but has the characters flit unrealistically between different emotional states, and for some reason includes a completely unfunny running joke about wine.

Now it would be wrong to claim that this production was entirely without merit. Both parts were acted with obvious skills and experience. Julia Munrow in particular dealt well with the challenges presented by the play and did well to convey the permanent scarring that Gentileschi had suffered at the hands of her attacker.

Unfortunately, any talent the actors possessed could not make up for the quality of this play as a whole. The applause at the end was justifiably lacklustre. This play is mercifully short, only 45 minutes, but it is by no account 45 minutes (or £10 well spent).

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