21 February 2011

Review: 'Tis Pity She's A Whore

 'Tis Pity She's A Whore
Malthouse Theatre
19 February 2011
Merlyn Thearte
to 5 March
www.malthousetheatre.com.au


I'm looking forward to Marion Pott's first program at Malthouse. To date, everything I've seen her direct has excited and inspired me and even if 'Tis Pity She's a Whore didn't leave me dancing in the streets, I certainly enjoyed it.

John Ford wrote Whore in the seventeenth century, not long after the popular playwright Shakespeare died.  Potts loves the complex and centuries-old language that often alienates our lazy contemporary ears and what I love most about Potts's direction is that she shows the emotional intent of the language and tells the straightforward story without dismissing the poetry and sound of the original words.

Some performers, like Laura Luttuada as Putana, shone because they spoke as if it were written today, while others suffered by concentrating too much on presenting the language or relying on the wonderful music that supported the emotional truth of work.

Potts also uses sound and music to bring a deeper emotional depth to her productions and the original music by Andree Greenwall, sound design and live music by Jethro Woodward's and the glorious sound of the wandering angel soprano Julia County ensured Whore's consistency and delicately intertwined the sounds and morality of the seventeenth and the twenty-first centuries.

I haven't read Ford's text, but know Potts cut characters and script to reveal its bones and those bones are a story about incest. The production tried to distance itself from the brother/sister romance to focus on the consequences of the taboo act and the inconsistent morality of everyone else. It's no revelation that the presentation of women as virgins, madonna mothers or whores hasn't changed too much since, neither has the double sexual standard of men and women – which is handed to the awesome Chris Ryan as a one person bogun-stud chorus.

I would have loved to see the love between Annabella and her brother Giovanni at the centre of tale. To have their romance as irresistible as teen lovers Romeo and Juliet and to make the audience hate themselves for wanting these two together, blessed by their family and loving their baby (who would have all its chromosomes). Just as Ford's world was clinging to ideas of absolute rights and wrongs – those Puritans had some impact – so is our world. Incest is an almost a universal taboo. We still joke about Tasmanians marrying their cousins and loathe to reveal any great grandparents who were first cousins. To have an audience blubbering at their deaths (of course they die) instead of feeling relieved that the problem is solved would have been a far more interesting conclusion and emotionally disturbing night of theatre.

So, 'tis pity that this Whore confirms our morality, rather than questions it – but I still look forward to the seeing whatever Marion Potts directs.

This review appears on AussieThearte.com

Photo by Jeff Busby

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