Review: Tis Pity She’s a Whore, at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe

Fiona Button as Annabella, Max Bennett as Giovanni. Photo Simon Kane

Fiona Button as Annabella, Max Bennett as Giovanni. Photo Simon Kane

Something happens twenty minutes into John Ford’s Tis Pity She’s a Whore, as performed at the Sam Wanamaker playhouse. Up until that point, I knew I was watching a hugely engaging production of a very fine play. Fluid, clear, intelligent. But at the beginning of the second act, in the scene where Giovanni and Annabella are in bed together, having made love for the first time, things are revealed for what they are. It’s not that the production changes gear, it is the audience catching up. The intense intimacy of falling in love ripples from stage to audience, tender, delicate, exposed to light – like camera film. Should we be here? Who is watching whom? And who is guilty of forbidden acts?

And then you get it. This production of Tis Pity She’s a Whore is going to be thrillingly hot. Not only in a high-minded way, or even in a carnal way – although both these are true – but forbidden, dangerous. The candlelight is fire and danger as much as it is shadows and trembling beauty. This is the achievement of Michael Longhurst’s production: without rewriting the play, he welds together themes of forbidden love with this cradle of a space, the breathing-fire quality of the text with feverish, sharp action. The result brims with exquisite life (and therefore death).

After that, everything falls into place and gains huge momentum. Max Bennett and Fiona Button, Giovanni and Annabella, brother and sister and lovers, fit perfectly and tenderly together, hands blindly seeking, breaths synching. It’s physics as much as anything else, bodies orbiting each other. Nature versus nature, sibling relationship versus cosmic powers. Continue reading

Review: Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge (starring Mark Strong), at the Young Vic Theatre

We are in early April and I might as well pack and go home now. Because I won’t see anything like the Young Vic production of A View From The Bridge for the rest of the year. At this point this feels exhilarating and a little bit depressing, but the production is performed until beginning of June, and I will definitely see it again. With this public service announcement out of the way – I will say it once, book a ticket – we will proceed.

Mark Strong (Eddie), Nicola Walker (Beatrice), Phoebe Fox (Catherine) and Luke Norris (Rodolpho). Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Mark Strong (Eddie), Nicola Walker (Beatrice), Phoebe Fox (Catherine) and Luke Norris (Rodolpho). Photo by Jan Versweyveld

People will describe the production as stylised and stripped back, but the result is the opposite of absence. On a bare stage – part courtyard, part shipyard (at the start of the play), part prison with walls not fully erected – emotions expand to fill the space in a pressing, almost unbearable way. The production exists in a place where a whole layer of skin is missing. I was hyperaware of all sensations: the movement of actors on stage appeared intuitive but the images were iconic. The music was heartbeat, full of blood and dread. None of these things were distracting, they opened up the senses for the real event, Arthur Miller’s play, one of the masterpieces of the twentieth century. The raw quality of first and last scenes bookended the production magnificently, with sex and death and desperation hanging in the air.

Mark Strong, twelve years off the stage (and if we wait another twelve years, it will be a crime), is a devastating presence. Continue reading