Tis Pity

While Pawn finds himself most at home with New Work, there is plenty to be admired in a well executed revival or classic. Monday night brings your intrepid travellers to the latter, John Ford’s “Jacobethan” Tis Pity She’s A Whore, revived and restaged by Cheek By Jowl at Barbican’s Silk Street Theater. Ford was a contemporary to Shakespeare, writing in a similar style, albeit seldom in iambic pentameter.

We were most impressed by Cheek By Jowl’s 2009 production of Jean Racine’s Andromaque and so were expecting similar quality. We were not let down. The large cast performed in brilliant ensemble form…

If I may take a moment aside, that is a recurring theme of the best of the shows we’ve taken in, of late – fine ensemble work. This is great to see, and must be encouraged.

The scene opens with Annabella, marvellously played by Lydia Wilson, as a teenage emo girl, walls bedroom covered with Vampire Diaries posters and the like, dancing wildly on her bed, whilst surrounded by her suitors. Her father, Florio, David Collings, is eager to marry her off, and is pushing her to choose.

Lydia Wilson as Annabella

Her brother Giovanni, Jack Gordon, has other plans. He courts his sister, wins her and after a night of passion, virtually abandons her, telling her to choose her husband wisely and always keep this their secret. Bereft, Annabella first tries to simply avoid marriage, but when her father insists, she chooses the nobleman Soranzo, played ably by Jack Hawkins.

Lydia Wilson and Jack Gordon

There is much drama: teenage pregnancy, unrequited love, jilted cougar (Hippolita) and such. Much sturm und drang. As in any good tragedy, by the time its over pretty much everyone is dead.

The single set, designed by Nick Ormerond, which serves this all is Annabella’s teenager’s bedroom; all action comes and goes through this single, simple setting, and is brilliantly managed by Declan Donnellan’s brisk direction. The show is taughtly choreographed and compellingly staged. Wilson’s performance, especially, stands out for its unending, boundless energy.

Not usually one for morality plays, Pawn seems to be finding himself in more and more of them lately. Tonight, as much fun as the immorality was, the morality was much bloodier, and in the end, that was just what the playwright ordered.

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