'Tis Pity She's a Whore

Renaissance tragedies are rarely as enjoyably silly as Wanton Theatre’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. This student production revels in the farcical aspects of John Ford’s controversial play, with passion turned up to 11.

this is Renaissance drama on steroids, and what a lot of fun it is too

The story follows incestuous siblings Giovanni (Louis Catliff) and Annabella (Elli Burke) as they attempt to keep their affair a secret. Together they have great chemistry and their love scenes are suitably steamy; audiences can expect to see a lot more of Catliff than they bargained for in an oddly comic sex scene - during which the back few rows stood up to get a better view. Catliff plays Giovanni as a moody teenager with some top-class brooding, and Burke is equally good at portraying the pressure Annabella comes under to conceal the affair.

As well as somehow making incest hilarious, further smatterings of comic brilliance are supplied by Noah Liebmiller as a bumbling and ineffective friar, and Isabelle Duff as Annabella’s saucy guardian Puttana. When things occasionally threaten to become more serious, the action becomes indulgently sensationalist in the best possible way. Hannah Raymond-Cox lays on the ham with glorious abandon in a magnificently overdone death scene, and at one point Catliff gets so caught up in the drama of it all that he adds a cheeky expletive before rushing into a sword fight. Joss Gillespie also gets top marks for tempestuousness as the stormy Soranzo.

Despite being a lot of fun throughout, there are a few things that could be tidier. The action is frequently disrupted by prolonged blackouts, often to move furniture that proves entirely redundant in the ensuing scene. There are also moments when things probably should be a bit more serious: Giovanni and Annabella’s final exchange lacks the emotional weight it deserves. Vasquez (Jack Briggs) could also do with a little more charisma, especially during his asides to the audience, to truly pull off the role of Machiavellian servant that’s such a central part of much Renaissance drama.

None of this should mar your enjoyment though, and both audience and cast clearly have a whale of a time. With plenty of fake blood, lots of shouting and at one point a heart waved around on a dagger, this is Renaissance drama on steroids, and what a lot of fun it is too.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Wanton Theatre presents this Jacobean parody of Romeo and Juliet: incest, passion, blood and a disembodied heart create a ritualistic spectacle that questions the bounds not only of conventional theatre, but also of conventional morality.