‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore

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Image credit: Will Beeston

Opening at the tail-end of this year’s Camden Fringe, Lazarus Theatre‘s latest production (running at the Tristan Bates Theatre) is John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. A tale of forbidden love between brother & sister (Giovanni & Annabella), set in bloody Parma – a city rife with plots. The storyline remains as controversial as ever, with incest as its focal point.

This production is 90 minutes straight through, and unfortunately this means some of the story goes under-developed & unexplained. If you are familiar with the entire story, and have perhaps seen a full production before, this will be less of an issue. However, for those in the audience who only know the basic premise (I count myself as one of them), it does leave you a little lost at times. For example, there are a lot of grudges & plots brought to light very quickly, however it is unclear why these exist.

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Prince Plockey and Lucy Walker-Evans in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore
Photo credit: Adam Trigg

The pacing is a little inconsistent; the short, snappy scenes are where it works best, with longer ones feeling a bit drawn out & overly wordy, without really explaining anything.

The style of the show is striking, in modern dress (particular credit goes to Isobel Pellow’s stunning costume design) and with loud incidental music. It is an ‘everyone dies’ play, and characters’ grisly ends are show in innovative style, via intricately choreographed movements to music. Unlike the good use of height through the rest of the show, with the cast often standing on a table & chairs, much of the climactic scene takes place on or near the ground – making it difficult to see for all bar the front couple of rows.

Its setup in the traverse makes it into more of a spectacle, and occasionally some of the cast head up the steps or sit briefly in the audience. This kind of involvement does a good job at engaging its viewers.

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Stephen MacNeice in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore
Photo credit: Adam Trigg

Perhaps given the abridged nature of the production, the siblings’ declarations of love for one another appear a little rushed and therefore lacking a  little in believability, despite Lucy Walker-Evans & Prince Plockey’s effortsr. In fact, the most interesting characters end up being Luke Dunford’s Bergetto (an early suitor to Annabella) & Stephen MacNeice’s Vasques.

The latter turns suddenly into the central villain of the piece, making his torturous actions all the more shocking by presenting them as entertainment. Dunford is terrific comedy value, and his Bergetto more than earns the dunce’s cap he proudly wears – even bringing some audience participation into the mix, often calling out for “Martin!” sat in the front row.

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Luke Dunford in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore
Photo credit: Adam Trigg

My verdict? A stylish attempt at a piece of classical, controversial theatre that doesn’t always hit the mark – though it doesn’t go without its enjoyable moments.

Rating: 3*


‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 10 September 2016. Tickets are available online and from the box office.

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