The Rape Of Lucrece – June 2014

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Elizabeth Freestone

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Thursday 26th June 2014

We saw this same production three years ago and were keen to see how they were doing it now. We had contrasting opinions this time: I didn’t think the production had changed much (although the performances had naturally developed) while Steve felt it was very different and preferred this performance to the previous one. To be fair, he didn’t rate our first viewing as high as I had, a fact which, in the glow of a wonderful evening, I seem to have omitted from my notes.

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The Rape Of Lucrece – April 2011

10/10

By: William Shakespeare

Directed by: Elizabeth Freestone

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: 1st April 2011

This was a mesmerising performance by Camille O’Sullivan, accompanied by Feargal Murray. We didn’t see her cabaret act during the ramp up events last year, but I’m very glad we caught this wonderful version of The Rape Of Lucrece tonight. There was a rehearsed reading of the poem during the Complete Works Festival in 2006, but this was far, far better in my view.

The set was very simple. The piano was under the stage balcony on the left, and there were several large stacks of paper on the stage, one forward of the piano and another on the front corner to our right. A pair of white ladies’ shoes was placed towards the other front corner. As she entered, Camille was carrying a pair of men’s boots, and as she began to weave her spell, telling us of the writing of the poem, she moved around the stage, placing the boots back right, forming a diagonal with the other pair. These items of footwear represented the two main characters in this piece, Tarquin and Lucrece, and were spot lit at various times to highlight the story. Camille herself was dressed in a thigh-length black coat, under which she wore a long white top over black leggings. Her feet were bare, and her hair was scooped up quite tightly at the back.

After describing the context of the poem’s creation, she then started into the story of the poem. Her delivery was so good, that I’m not sure at what point she started using the poem itself, but soon she was well into it, and her gestures and intonation got across many aspects of the lines that I wasn’t able to catch directly, through missing the odd word or just because of the complexity of the language. I would have sworn I saw the candle, and the doors, and the knife with my own eyes – there were no such props, just her skill and the wonderful language.

The story was the same as with the rehearsed reading, of course. The Roman nobles, away at war, boast of their wives, and one, Lucrece’s husband, outdoes the others for bragging. Fortunately for him, when the men all sneak back to Rome, his wife is the only one they find being virtuous – the others are all having fun, which is not what Roman wives are meant to do when their husband’s backs are turned. Tarquin, inflamed with passion for Lucrece’s beauty, returns later to visit her, and despite the feeble flickering of his conscience, rapes her. Distraught, she has a good long rant and rave, then summons her husband back home so he can witness her suicide and revenge the wrong which Tarquin has inflicted on her honour, which he does.

It’s a difficult story, not least because of the rape, but here it was staged with great sensitivity, not overdoing the suffering and brutality, but showing it in a way that reflected the poetry of the language, allowing our imaginations to skip over the sordid details to experience the emotional and mental pain caused by such an act. From time to time, when the characters themselves were speaking, she moved into song, using the poem’s lines, of course, but adding a tune and a delivery which emphasised the meaning, sometimes harsh, sometimes pure and sweet. With her bare feet often drumming out a rhythm, these aspects combined to produce the magical effect which only theatre can provide.

There were several vivid moments of staging that impressed me. Firstly, when Tarquin was sneaking towards Lucrece’s bedroom, she used a closing hand gesture in the direction of each of three lights, and the control room obligingly turned them off, all at a menacingly gentle pace. Once in Lucrece’s room, she prowled around the bed, describing Tarquin’s growing lust, or rage, as the poem has it. Then, as the poem continued, she removed the black coat, and used it to demonstrate Tarquin smothering Lucrece’s cries as he began to rape her. As she was doing this, she gradually turned over to become Lucrece, unpinning her hair, and with several moaning cries she indicated Lucrece’s agony at her violation. It was a very moving scene, not difficult to watch or embarrassing, but painful all the same.

With the rape over, the poem focuses on Lucrece’s feelings and her thoughts, especially her increasing desire to kill herself to redeem her honour. In the Complete Works version, I found myself annoyed that she regarded her blood as tainted and dishonoured by Tarquin’s actions. Tonight, it made more sense as part of her emotional reaction to being raped. Her emotional distress was well portrayed in song, with the rage and grief both coming across strongly. She also threw some of the paper stack by the piano across the floor, kicking at it in her frustration.

Finally, as Lucrece stabbed herself, and she was describing the blood flowing out in two rivers to surround the body, red petals floated down to cover the centre of the stage – a beautiful image for a sad event.

Her father’s lament was done as a song, and then her husband took the knife with which she stabbed herself, swearing to avenge her rape and death. Tarquin was banished, and Lucrece’s reputation restored to honour. Not a happy ending, but a fitting completion to this amazing emotional journey we’d been taken on.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Love Is My Sin – January 2011

6/10

By: Wiliam Shakespeare

Directed by: Peter Brook

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Friday 7th January 2011

This piece was devised by Peter Brook to link a number of Shakespeare’s sonnets together. First performed in Paris, here we had Michael Pennington and Natasha Parry delivering a series of sonnets exploring love and time from different angles. While I’m fascinated by the sonnets, I find their language too complex to be readily understood, and so although some lines came across really well, for the most part “it was all Greek to me”. I found Natasha Parry’s delivery a little weak, and our position didn’t help, as our view was regularly blocked. The music was charming, but with the heat in the auditorium, I nodded off a few times when the music took over. Still, it was a pleasant evening, and I would still be happy to attend other sonnet readings in future.

The highlight of the evening was an unexpected treat – Peter Brook and Michael Boyd in a post-show conversation. Paul Allen made the third, and I was totally taken with Peter Brook’s deep listening presence, and the tremendously good sense that he talked. His view on professors and their declarations about Will’s work were spot on (and good fun), and although I don’t remember all the details, I thoroughly enjoyed his contributions.

Michael Boyd was equally entertaining. In fact, the two made a great double act. I left the theatre feeling I’d been in the presence of two masters of theatre, that as with great theatre I’d been uplifted and improved just by being there. A great night.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Venus And Adonis – March 2007

8/10

By: WIlliam Shakespeare

Directed by: Greg Doran

Company: Little Angel/RSC

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Saturday 17th March 2007

This was a wonderful hour of poetry and motion, with music. Towards the back of the Swan stage was a smallish puppet theatre, about four feet high and maybe seven feet across. (Sorry, 1.3 metres and 2.2 metres respectively.) In front of it stood a bench, and to either side a chair. The guitarist sat to our left, and Harriet Walter, as narrator, sat on the right. With some classical guitar music, we were off, and Harriet spoke the intro to Venus and Adonis, the dedication to the Earl of Southampton.

As I’d been watching the guitarist, I was surprised to look back and see Will Shakespeare had popped up from behind the bench, and was sitting to one side, penning the introduction. Behind him, the curtains of the puppet stage opened, and the Earl was revealed. I didn’t quite follow why Queen Elizabeth then came on and spent some time with the young Earl – I’ll have to look up the poem when I get home.

Then the poem itself started with Venus arriving on stage in a conch shell carriage, pulled by two doves – a lovely picture. Meantime, Adonis arrives on his horse. He’s a pretty boy (Adonis, that is, although the horse wasn’t bad either), but with absolutely no manners. Venus fancies him on sight, pulls him off his horse (and sends the animal packing), and Adonis doesn’t even want to kiss her! She pleads, she cajoles, she strokes and kisses various parts of his anatomy, all without raising his interest. Finally, she swoons, and, worried that she’s dead, he approaches her to check for signs of life. Apparently this involves kissing her, just to see if she’ll wake up (I don’t remember this technique when I did first aid!). He has a couple of goes to find somewhere to rest his hand (Not the breast! Not the crotch!), he plants a serious smacker on her lips, and she miraculously revives. Following some fairly passionate clinching, which had Adonis adjusting his garments afterwards, he runs off, the churl, leaving Venus sad and lonely.

Next day, he’s out again, planning to hunt boar, and refusing to listen to Venus’ warnings about how dangerous it is. Sure enough, the boar gets him, and Venus is upset, and curses love, and it all ends unhappily. Great fun.

That’s the basic story, but there’s more detail, and this is one production where the detail is everything. The puppets are fantastic. Venus is so soft-looking and voluptuous, it’s hard to imagine any red-blooded man not falling for her. She’s full of little touches – literally, as she can hardly keep her hands off Adonis for most of the poem. She walks so beautifully, each foot lifting and stepping so delicately. When she and Adonis do kiss, her feet lift off the ground one after the other, then her legs float up, then his legs float up, then they’re floating together in mid-air (so much easier with puppets than with real actors), then that cunning love-goddess has swivelled round so they’re lying together in mid-air, then it gets a bit pornographic (kept the audience awake, though). At one point, when she’s lying down, suffering the pangs of unrequited love, she still manages to pull her skirt up to show a substantial bit of leg. Her dance with the hands of death towards the end was good, too, as she leapt from hand to hand so gracefully, expressing her happiness when she thinks Adonis is alive after all. She was worked so well and so expressively that I could easily imagine her face changing to display the emotions.

Adonis is an articulated lump of wood by comparison, which is fine, because that’s what he’s meant to be. Solid, unimaginative, makes me wonder what Venus saw in him. He’s only interested in hunting, and doesn’t care for gurls. Funnily enough, he’s going hunting clad only in a skimpy off-the-shoulder very short tunic.  I suspect he’s actually well aware of his looks, and has set out to flaunt as much of his body as he can. A real pussy tease. Well, he gets his comeuppance, poor lad. When he runs off, he goes right across the stage and out of one of the side exits; a lovely mover.

His horse is good-looking, too, and he knows it. The poem describes him in some detail, and for this part, Harriet moves over to the bench where the stallion is posing, to point out the bits she’s talking about. He’s happy to oblige, but he’s even more interested in a serious bit of equine totty that shows up and flirts with him. She’s the reason he runs off and leaves Adonis stranded in the woods with a randy goddess. As Venus points out, his horse knows how to have a good time with a lady. At one point I thought they might go so far as to have the horses mating on stage – they’re in the right positions, and she does lift her tail – but there’s no coitus, interruptus or otherwise, on show.

The boar is an excellent piece of work, really menacing and LARGE! It comes on after Venus has heard the hounds howling and suspects that it’s curtains for Adonis. Meantime, she’s busy hiding herself as the boar enters, and looks around for someone to gore. His tusks are red, his bristles are big, and he’s a well-muscled killing machine. He checks out various parts of the stage, and there was nearly a nasty moment when he spotted the guitar player, and thinks about giving him a good mauling. But fortunately he heads off, leaving Venus to find Adonis’ dead body.

The other main character is death. And this was done very cleverly. The surround for the puppet stage included some moulding, which came away to form two very long arms with big, claw-like hands. At the centre top of the frame was a round device, which I’d spotted earlier, but couldn’t make out what it was. At this point, it transformed into a skull. Venus spends some time chiding death for taking away her beloved, fending his hands off, and getting really cross. Then when she hears the huntsmen, she assumes all is well, and apologises for her behaviour – this is when she has her little dance with the hands of death. It was quite impressive seeing these big hands float around without getting caught up in anything.

Nearly forgot the hare! When Venus is trying to persuade Adonis to hunt anything rather than the boar, she talks about the hare, and we get to see one – standing up, crouched down, loping round the stage. Beautifully done. And there was also a deer at the beginning, that leapt across ahead of Adonis, and puppet silhouettes that ran across the back of the stage – hounds, deer, and boar.

The narration was also excellent. Harriet Walter did a great job of reading out the poem, fitting it beautifully to the puppet’s actions. The puppeteers also added some noises and comments from time to time, and it all worked very well together. I particularly liked one occasion when one of the puppets looked at Harriet, not sure what to do, and she responded with a shrug. The music fitted in so well, I was often unaware of it, but I did enjoy what I heard.

It was such a complete experience that it’s hard to convey it in words. Little movements by the puppeteers gave such amazing performances from the puppets. Venus raising her head when Adonis is checking her vitals, for example, and Adonis holding his hands over his crotch after their romp, then pulling his tunic back into place. And Venus settling herself down to sleep, cradling her head on her arm. Lots of lovely moments, coming thick and fast, while the narration gives us the story. A great way to spend an hour.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Nothing Like The Sun – February 2007

2/10

By William Shakespeare

Company: Opera North in collaboration with the RSC

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Saturday 24th February 2007

Sonnets for the first half –

73

That time of year that thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west;

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,

Consum’d with that which it was nourished by.

This thou perceives, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

43

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,

For all the day they view things unrespected;

But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,

And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.

Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,

How would thy shadow’s form form happy show

To the clear day with thy much clearer light,

When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!

How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made

By looking on thee in the living day,

When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade

Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!

All days are nights to see till I see thee,

And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red, than her lips red:

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damasked, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound:

I grant I never saw a goddess go,

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,

As any she belied with false compare.

40

Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all:

What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?

No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call;

All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more.

Then, if for my love, thou my love receivest,

I cannot blame thee, for my love thou usest;

But yet be blam’d, if thou thy self deceives

By wilful taste of what thyself refusest.

I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief,

Although thou steal thee all my property:

And yet, love knows it is a greater grief

To bear love’s wrong, than hate’s known injury.

Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows,

Kill me with spites yet we must not be foes.

27

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,

The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;

But then begins a journey in my head

To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:

For then my thoughts – from far where I abide –

Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,

And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,

Looking on darkness which the blind do see:

Save that my soul’s imaginary sight

Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,

Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,

Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.

      Lo! Thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,

      For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.

          These sonnets comprised the first half. Each sonnet’s music was written by a different composer, but because they all had the same instruments to work with, the sound tended to be similar. One piece, sonnet 130, did have additional grating sounds – industrial harsh, I call it. Clanging noises, breaking, grinding, plus some hints of waves and wind, etc. Interestingly enough, this was the funniest of the sonnets when read out by the actor, Richard Dillane, but it took on a more somber tone in the musical version.

Sonnet 27, and to a lesser extent sonnet 43, came across to me as referring to God, rather than a woman (controversial, I know). Sonnet 40 seemed to be about unrequited love. The singers were both good. The woman had a clear, sharp voice, like a sharp, dry white wine. The male singer had a mellow, full voice, like a well-rounded burgundy. They didn’t clash, but I felt they weren’t complementary.

Gavin Friday, one of the composers, spoke the lines for sonnet 40 himself, during the musical version. He took a long time coming on from the back, and used a microphone very close to his mouth, which gave his speech a breathy, almost whispered quality. He walked slowly round the stage, and his exit was timed to fit with the music.

I noticed the male singer was turning his pages very quickly – I wondered if he was going for a speed reading record at first, then I reckoned he may have had the orchestral score, with fewer bars per page.

Both actors were very good. Richard Dillane didn’t refer to his script at all, while Nina Sosanya did have to look at hers, probably had less time to rehearse, although from the post-show it may just be that Richard is very familiar with some sonnets anyway.

These are the sonnets for the second half:

60

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,

And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth

And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,

Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:

And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

123

No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:

Thy pyramids built up with newest might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;

They are but dressings of a former sight.

Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire

What thou dost foist upon us that is old;

And rather make them born to our desire

Than think that we before have heard them told.

Thy registers and thee I both defy,

Not wondering at the present nor the past,

For thy records and what we see doth lie,

Made more or less by thy continual haste.

This I do vow, and this shall ever be;

I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee.

128

How oft, when thou, my music, music play’st,

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently sway’st

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap

To kiss the tender inwards of thy hand,

Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,

At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand!

To be so tickl’d, they would change their state

And situation with those dancing chips,

O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,

Making dead wood more blessed than living lips.

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

94

They that have power to hurt and will do none,

That do not do the thing they most do show,

Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,

Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;

They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces,

And husband nature’s riches from expense;

They are the lords and owners of their faces,

Others but stewards of their excellence.

The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,

Though to itself it only live and die,

But if that flower with base infection meet,

The basest weed outbraves his dignity:

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

102

My love is strengthen’d, though more weak in seeming;

I love not less, though less the show appear:

That love is merchandiz’d whose rich esteeming

The owner’s tongue doth publish everywhere.

Our love was new, and then but in the spring,

When I was wont to greet it with my lays;

As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing,

And stops her pipe in growth of riper days:

Not that the summer is less pleasant now

Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,

But that wild music burthens every bough,

And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.

Therefore, like her, I sometime hold my tongue,

Because I would not dull you with my song.

146

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,

Which like two spirits do suggest me still:

The better angel is a man right fair,

The worser spirit a woman, colour’d ill.

To win me soon to hell, my female evil

Tempteth my better angel from my side,

And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,

Wooing his purity with her foul pride.

And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend

Suspect I may, but not directly tell;

But being from me, both to each friend,

I guess one angel in another’s hell:

Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt,

Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

55

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rime;

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword nor war’[s quick fire shall burn

The living record of your memory.

‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room

Even in the eyes of all posterity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So, till the judgment that yourself arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

64

When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defac’d

The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;

When sometime lofty towers I see down-raz’d,

And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;

When I have seen the hungry ocean gain

Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,

And the firm soil win of the watery main,

Increasing store with loss, and loss with store;

When I have seen such interchange of state,

Or state itself confounded to decay;

Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate –

That Time will come and take my love away.

This thought is as a death, which cannot choose

But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

The second half comprised a through-composed piece, with the words being both spoken and sung. On a screen at the back a film was shown, of various images which the director felt reflected the sense of the sonnet and would enhance the music.

Personally, I found this half rather dull. Again, the singing was fine, though the music wasn’t really to my taste, and I didn’t get any great sense of the sonnets involved. The lines were first spoken by Gavin Friday, in similar vein to his previous performance, but this time he was sitting in a corner of the stage and without a microphone. His delivery wasn’t clear enough for me to hear the words, so I was left without much of a reference point as far as the music was concerned, and that probably added to my listlessness.

The film seemed pretty boring as well, although there were several interesting images as it went on. I liked the slow-motion film of the struck match, seeing the amazing shapes taken by the new-born flame, and also the patterns of smoke from the recently blown-out candle. The disintegrating table settings, as someone lifted and then pulled the tablecloth, were also quite enjoyable, as was the water splashing from a puddle. All of this was in slow motion. Less appealing were the tulip flowers, the patterns of bare branches against a grey sky (repeated too often, for too long), and I found the close-ups of torn plastic hanging from barbed wire verging on the pretentious. Both Steve and I had a good laugh afterwards at the other image I remember – a swinging light bulb -because it reminded us of the opening credits for Callan, so many years ago.

As I couldn’t make out enough of the words, I couldn’t pass the time reflecting on their meaning, so this part of the evening dragged for me. Fortunately it was fairly short, and the seats were comfortable.

 

Post-show – an RSC lady introduced the post-show by explaining how she had got Deborah Shaw and Dominic Cooke together to do this project. Then we went through some of the other connections that were made in the overall process. Various members of the creative ensemble had worked together before or were working together at the time, and so the overall production came together. They all seemed to be united in finding Shakespeare’s sonnets terrifying to tackle. Some composers they approached couldn’t fit it into their schedules, but everyone involved was on the list.

Gavin (main composer) knew what instruments would be used – this is a touring production, so instruments were limited. No violins, but he had a double bass, cello and two violas. They were originally thinking of doing this in the Swan, but then the Courtyard became an option. Dominic asked what the acoustics would be like (while it was still a car park!) and particularly because of the schedule it became the chosen venue.

It was interesting for the actors, with their approach to the text, then seeing how the composers had tackled the same pieces – one sonnet in particular (130) was very funny when read by the actor, but much more serious as a piece of music. There was a general sense of synergy.

Some of the music was only ready in the last few days. The order of the pieces was serendipitous, as programs were being printed in advance, and it so happened the pieces worked well together, although the order may change in the future. This performance is towards the end of the RSC’s Complete Works season, and Opera North will be doing a season of opera based on Shakespeare later this year, so it’s quite a good crossover.

Some people heard it all clearly, some couldn’t, but Gavin’s approach seemed to be that it was more of a sound experience than a word experience, so tough.

Choice of sonnets – guest composers could choose what they wanted, Gavin focused on sonnets he didn’t know and that weren’t well known, also those that were more philosophical rather than the love poems.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Rape Of Lucrece – September 2006

Experience: 7/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Gregory Doran

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Sunday 10th September 2006

Now for rape, suicide, and the end of a monarchy. This was an excellent reading of the poem, suitably edited to keep the running time down. Again, it was so warm I was finding it hard to concentrate at times, but the performances were very effective, especially when Jane Lapotaire was taking us through Lucrece’s sufferings – despite being raped, that woman had the stamina and the vocabulary to outlast Patience! We just got the edited highlights, thankfully.

Basic plot. Tarquin’s son rapes Lucrece, after a (relatively) short pause to consider the merits or otherwise of his actions. No contest – lust wins again. She’s in despair, and lets us know all about it, railing against time, opportunity, her husband, etc. before considering a painting of the Trojan War (as you do). She has the wit to send for her husband, and meeting him on her return, appears to have run out of words. After briefly explaining that the King’s son has raped her (serious editing here), she stabs herself, under the horrible delusion that somehow she’s damaged goods and the stain on her character cannot be removed. Personally, I prefer the version of red Riding Hood where the little girl, on encountering a grandma with long snout, long ears and big teeth, takes a gun out of her basket and shoots the wolf (James Thurber, I think). Woman power. Then we have Lucrece’s father and husband wrangling over whose loss is the greater (shades of Laertes and Hamlet). Will no one call an ambulance? (OK, the poet thinks she’s dead, but what does he know? A good doctor, a fully equipped ER, and she might recover!) Fortunately Brutus (ancestor of the Caesar-slayer) is on hand to knock some sense into them. So, off they go to overthrow the political structure of Rome. Yes, it is a bit of a jump, but if you know your Roman history, it makes perfect sense (thank you Mr Parks, my second year Latin teacher).

Several curtain calls (what do you call these when there’s no curtain?), which often seems to take actors by surprise. Did they think we’d gone home? Snuck out while they weren’t looking, or were they too engrossed in their part to notice? I suppose this isn’t a promising subject for rapturous applause, but then you’re not likely to get much passing trade at this sort of thing – only your hard-core Shakespeare fans, desperate to catch a glimpse of this rarely sighted beast.

One final point – the actors had been standing for so long, they actually found it difficult to take their bow; perhaps that explains the response to the applause – they couldn’t wait to get off the stage!

© 2006 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me