The Rape of Lucrece – Gate Theatre – Review

The Rape of Lucrece – Gate Theatre – Review

27th March – 7th April, 2018
The Rape of Lucrece by William Shakespeare

Tarquin and Collatine are in the town of Ardea in Rome where a battle is being fought. They are two Roman soldiers and have lived through many wars. Collatine describes his wife to Tarquin. She is a beautiful and chaste woman, anything a man could want. This talk ignites a fire in Tarquin. He travels to Collatine’s home to meet this woman and plans his most vicious conquest.

The Rape of Lucrece was written by Shakespeare in 1594 when he was only 28 years old. It is a narrative poem with 1,855 lines which converts to an hour fifteen minutes on stage. It has a number of characters but the focus is mainly on the honourable woman Lucrece and the malevolent Tarquin. The plot is quite simple with the emphasis on the beauty of the language and the strong moral behind the story.

This production was originally part of the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2013. While there are two performers on stage, Fergal Murray is behind a piano for the duration and does not speak. Murray and O’Sullivan have set certain sections of the text to music, with O’Sullivan singing accompanied by the piano. Other portions are performed as spoken word with O’Sullivan acting out elements of the plot. The full focus is on Camille O’Sullivan who plays both Tarquin and Lucrece, often talking directly to the audience.

The stage is relatively bare with a long curtain at the back of the set. A piano is on one side of the stage and a number of boxes on the other. There are two pairs of shoes which are quite symbolic; a white pair of women’s shoes and a black pair of men’s boots. The lighting is used to draw the audience into the piece, with the house lights faintly raised on occasion. In a tale of purity and immorality, shades of light and dark are important tools.

This was always an unusual choice for a theatrical production. While there is much lyricism in the text, it was never intended to be sung and there are none of the traditional verse/ chorus structures to the musical elements. Certain phrases are repeated and the simple beauty of the text is obvious: “Her azure veins, her alabaster skin, her coral lips, her snow-white dimpled chin”.  O’Sullivan’s background is as a singer and the musical sequences are the strongest part of this sad and strangely relevant tale.

Cast & Crew
Director – Elizabeth Freestone
Music – Feargal Murray & Camille O’Sullivan
Performed by Feargal Murray & Camille O’Sullivan
Set & Costume Designer Lily Arnold
Lighting Designer Claire Gerrens
Sound Designer Claire Windsor


Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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