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Tis Pity She’s a Whore.

Given this play was first performed in 1626 and written before then, it has as its theme one with which a modern playwright might feel uncomfortable – namely, an incestuous and passionate love between brother and sister. Antonella has returned to Parma with her tutor friar and her father is anxious to make her a good match. The Count Saranzo is the target, but matters are complicated by Antonella’s love for her brother. There is much duplicity and gore.

The Cheek by Jowl production is modern one. The actors wear contemporary dress, there are semi-nudity and steamy love scenes. Disco music and songs also feature. The friar is black and, alhough he was a capable actor with a resonant voice, I could not help sensing lipservice to diversity. I am not a huge fan of taking a play out of its historical habitat and sometimes I think a director does this to make his own imprint. The cast was competent, but somehow failed to make a deep impression over the noisy events taking place around them. Eve Ponsonby as Antonella is lying provocatively on a bed in an open stage before the play begins, and spends most of it in her bra and knickers, but still failed to convey the sexual power intended. Ruth Everett as the cunning Hippolita has the best part but overplays it.

Cheek by Jowl, masterminded by Declan  Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, have made an important contribution, not just to our national but The National Theatre and also international productions. I have known and enjoyed the company of Declan for many years and I could see his exuberance in the production which, despite its shortcomings, engaged the  audience from start  to finish.

About Tim Holford-Smith

Despite running his architectural practice full-time, Tim is a frequent theatre-goer and occasional am-dram producer. More Posts