A true story, this dramatic two-hander is a fascinating exploration of 17th century life in the city of Rome filled with drama, conflict and art.
This is a production that faces the subject of rape head on and is still relevant to this day.
Set 33 years after the tragic rape of Artemisia, her friend Tuzia returns to her to find some resolution to her own guilt. Although not related, a major focus of this production is the tumultuous relationship between a woman, scarred by a violent event, and her mother figure.
The script is clumsy and lacks finesse during the impassioned scenes where the two women row over lovers, Artemisia’s father, and the court’s verdict on the rape. However, one must commend the writer on the sensitive approach to a delicate subject matter. The detailed description from Artemisia as she stands in court at the start is frank, holding nothing back, and yet is handled gently and with tact.
Julia Munrow (Artemisia) and Julia Rufey (Tuzia) are confident and Rufey’s comic manipulation of Munrow for more wine is done artfully. Unfortunately, their line delivery is often restrained, and interpretations questionable at moments. Munrow appears too childlike for a jaded woman who has suffered the way she has for the last 33 years while Rufey’s impression of the infamous Agostino’s dying words is more comic than dramatic.
The physicality of the actors individually is confident and certain, yet the violence attempted by one on the other is fumbled and thus loses its initial force. The lighting changes at questionable intervals and the costumes are a little cliched but the props are used effectively.
This is a production that faces the subject of rape head on and is still relevant to this day. It sheds light on victim shaming and raises awareness of the haunting nature of the violence Artemisia underwent. The execution is perhaps not up to standard but the drama is certainly there.