What does the transcript of a 17th century Italian rape trial reveal about the state of the world nowadays? That, despite 400 years of supposed social progress, the impulse to blame rape victims and protect the perpetrators doesn’t seem to have disappeared. In a festival full of testimonials and denouncements of violence against women, It’s True, It’s True, It’s True, presents us with perhaps the earliest: that of baroque painter, Artemisia Gentileschi, who bravely defied norms by prosecuting her well-connected tutor and rapist, Agostino Tassi.
Brilliantly intelligent, multi-layered and charged with moral outrage
Performed by Sophie Steer, Kathryn Bond, Ellice Stevens the trio quickly reveal the double standards at play in the Renaissance and contemporary legal systems with every one of Gentileschi’s claims disputed, pored over and distorted beyond recognition.Tassi, in the employ of the Pope, is unsurprisingly given the benefit of the doubt and spared from facing the consequences of his bringing to mind a worrying amount of modern example such as Brock Turner. Steer, as Tassi, is full of quiet menace and uncannily evokes the unearned overconfidence of a man who thinks he’s beyond reproach. Like RashDash proved in Two Man Show, it seems the best way to properly interrogate toxic male behaviour is to get a woman to play one.
BREACH have certainly made a name for themselves with their distinctive style: reconstructing historical events from verbatim documents to interrogate the present and using theatre’s theatricality to explore the arts’ ability to reframe the narrative. It’s True, It’s True, It’s True, is perhaps the clearest example of this with the trio reconstructing and deconstructing Gentilsechi’s paintings to highlight importance of including female perspectives to get closer to the truth. As with all of BREACH’s work the truth is a slippery thing and the company refuse to end on an easy-to-digest note, attempting to redefine Gentileschi as the groundbreaking artist and woman she was rather than reducing her to her victimhood. It’s True, It’s True, It’s True is brilliantly intelligent, multi-layered and charged with moral outrage – let’s hope time is well and truly up for men like Tassi.