The show's 1920s setting added a glamourous twistJohannes Hjorth

A fantastic rebirth of John Ford’s controversial Renaissance play, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, this week's ADC Mainshow truly captured the essence of Renaissance revenge tragedy whilst elaborating with a glamourous twist to appeal to the modern audience.

The tale of forbidden incest between brother and sister, Giovanni and Annabella, is openly and unashamedly erotic with explicitly sexual scenes that parallel the ultimately inevitable deaths of a similarly overt and bloody nature. With attention to detail adding plenty of blood, lust and brutality, this is not a production for the faint-hearted.

The actors were incredible in their rendering of their individual characters, portraying bestial lust, anger, sorrow and deception, and bringing to life the language of Ford’s England. Despite being a tragedy, there were humourous moments through well-delivered lines that served to lighten the tone: contrasting the comedic scenes of Bergetto’s chivalrous attempts to woo Anabella with the witty aid of his servant, Poggio, with the serious didacticism of Friar Bonaventura’s mentoring to a struggling Giovanni.

The characterisation of Giovanni was incredible in his ability to evoke both pathos through his breathless, urgent yet forbidden passion; “You must either love or I must die”, and scornful hatred in his incestuous acts and final murder of his own sister: “Tis a heart,/A heart, my Lords, in which is mine entombed”.

A distinctive atmosphere was created immediately by the actors' presence on-stage, engaging the audience, and setting-up the scene. An unmistakable aura of anticipated terror was enhanced through the effective and organised set and effects; a smoky ambiance, dimmed, shadow-evoking lighting and atmospheric music played by a live band on stage. The music was perfectly timed throughout the play, making the audience gasp or giggle at moments of horror and hilarity. ‘Blood’ was also used to great effect, exacerbating the violence of death scenes and adding an element of authenticity to the brutality.

There were a few lighting uncertainties with unclear and late spotlights distracting the audience and some accidental knocking-over of stools and wine-glasses, yet these are to be expected in a first performance and did not hinder the brilliance of the piece. The scene-setting, costume design, props and acting all combined to create a spectacular performance, drawing the audience into the entanglement of the play’s twisted love and secrets.

Overall a brilliant performance, encapsulating the drama of incestuous lust, unbearable sadness, wicked deeds of murder and revenge, all tangibly evoked through incredible acting, scenery and props – a performance that captures the essence of revenge tragedy on a modern-day stage.

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