Lemon Squeeze Productions are presenting a new adaptation of Rossetti’s Women at the Space@Surgeons’ Hall, written and directed by Joan Greening, award-winning writer of ITV sitcoms The Cabbage Patch and Troubles and Strife.
charming, simple and forthright
It’s a delight to see the elegant period costumes on stage, courtesy of Sarah Archer, as the three main women in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s life stand perfectly posed in a freeze frame, as though ready for the artist himself to paint their portraits. He, however, never appears. This is the moment when the ladies have their chance to dish the dirt.
Lizzie Siddal (Emma Hopkins), shrouded in off-white, speaks as a ghost. She was married to Rossetti but committed suicide after hearng that he was having an affair with Fanny Cornforth (Julia Munrow), a prostitute who became his housekeeper, model and mistress. Rossetti was great friends with William Morris, the textile designer, and his wife Jane Morris (Sarah Archer). Though a woman of seemingly great propriety, her relationship with Rossetti blossomed when her husband left on an extended trip to Iceland.
Hopkins captures the innocence and naivety of Siddal who is no match for the other ladies. Archer portrays Morris as a poshly spoken, conniving and judgemental individual whose put-down lines provide much humour. Her stunning purple dress and condescending demeanor plays well against the pale fragility of Hopkins. In stark contrast Munrow, with an equally stunning outfit in deep blue, displays the common, brash manners and loud mouth of the down-to-earth streetwise whore. Between them they highlight Rossetti’s obsession with women and his tragic life of lust and drug dependence. They also illustrate how different people’s lives can be depending on their temperament. Here are displayed the faithful, the devious and the opportunistic for all to see and observe.
Rossetti’s Women is a charming, simple and forthright work that provides a period piece in contrast to the swathes of contemporary material that are to be found at the Fringe.