[star rating= 3/5]
WILLIAM Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece is a narrative poem about the Roman historical figure Lucretia, whose rape by Prince Tarquin caused the overthrow of the monarchy and the beginning of the Roman republic.
The Shakespeare Edit presents this abridged version of Shakespeare’s tragic poem following a critically acclaimed co-production with the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai.
Staged in the round, Lucrecetakes a bare bones approach to the topic of rape and gender violence. By surrounding the actors with their audience they are free to portray a more realistic and engaging depiction of Lucrece’s story.
The staging also engages the audience in another way – by placing the actors in the middle of a circle it invites the audience to surround and judge the characters in a way that wouldn’t be possible with a more traditional theatrical staging where the audience is passive.
This version of Shakespeare’s poem edits the cast down to three principal players: Lucrece, Tarquin and Lucrece’s servant who also acts as narrator. All three are well-cast.
Whoopie van Raam portrays Lucrece with humanity and passion, stopping her from being reduced to a mere victim. Even Tarquin, played by Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, is portrayed as a deeply flawed human even though he ultimately chooses to commit a monstrous act.
Isabella Marshall has a particularly good grasp of the text which is lucky as it is she who has the most lines by far as the narrator.
In the era of #MeToo, Shakespeare’s handling of the story of Lucrece comes across as intensely patriarchal: Lucrece’s rape is discussed in terms of her lost status as a loyal wife and her feelings of shame are tied to her husband.
Those hoping for a dramatic final act of revenge will also be disappointed as this is not included in Shakespeare’s original text and ultimately this is unsatisfying to a modern audience.
However, Lucrece’s courage in naming Tarquin as her rapist sends a powerful message and it is notable that, while Lucrece’s Male relatives make the tragedy all about themselves, her female servant has the presence of mind to remind them of the need for revenge.
This is definitely not a feel-good piece of theatre but it is an effectively staged and deftly acted production which will be of interest to fans of Shakespeare looking for something new and different.