[star rating = 4/5]
Breach Theatre returns to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with their award-winning production It’s True, It’s True, It’s True as part of the British Council showcase.
The play recounts the 17thcentury rape trial brought by 15-year-old baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi against her fellow painter Agostino Tassi. Based on surviving court documents the cast of three women take us through the trial and chillingly reproduce Tassi’s use of now familiar tactics often used to discredit victims of sexual violence.
But Kathryn Bond, Sophie Steer and Ellice Stevens go one step further than merely recounting the trial arguments. In bringing Artemisia’s story to life they show the brutality of a legal system which focuses more on the accuser’s character than that of the accused. Artemisia’s literal torture with thumbscrews is only a shade more horrifying than the mental torture she endures at the hands of the judicial system.
At its heart It’s True, It’s True, It’s True is a powerful cry of rage and triumph against those who seek to silence and humiliate women. Even though Artemisia won her case against Tassi the lack of any real punishment stemming from his conviction underscores the tragedy of Artemisia’s story.
But Stevens, in her role as Artemisia, refuses to quell her anger against the men who would condone Tassi’s actions and the blaring rock soundtrack underscores this rage. The impact of Artemisia’s work on portraying realistic, angry women in art as well as her induction as the first female member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence are covered here, making her more than just a victim but a feminist icon in her own right.
The play is so intensely focused on its theme of feminine rage that it leaves some details unexplored, such as the curious complicity of Artemisia’s friend Tuzia in the rape. But this is a minor quibble as the trial scenes provide plenty of gripping drama on their own.
It’s True, It’s True, It’s True holds a mirror up to contemporary society in the wake of the #MeToo movement and asks how far have we really come since the days of thumbscrews and biblical allegory.