Sunday 26 August 2012

EIF 2012 – The Rape of Lucrece, or, I'll Tell Thee a Tale to Bind Thee

This was my last International Festival drama for this year, and by goodness it was a marvellous way to finish. After one too many over elaborate and dull nonsenses, this performance is a reminder that to create great theatre you don't need more than a fine text (Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece) and a world class singing actress (Camille O'Sullivan).

O'Sullivan like Barry McGovern in Watt knows the dynamic of story telling. At the beginning she has that quiet authority of the great narrator leading you into the labyrinth. She has the art of voice and gesture which means that throughout the story even though the stage is basically bare you really feel that you see the defiled bed, the hapless Lucrece, the lust filled Tarquin. She switches effortlessly from the outside authority to the three principal characters of Lucrece, Tarquin and Lucretius (Lucrece's despairing father who has a powerful speech towards the close). She also makes you feel the weight of fate – the balance in the story that on some level longs to hold back the disaster and knows that it must come.

The story is delivered in a mixture of speech and song which I found wholly compelling and very moving. But I think the heart of O'Sullivan's achievement is that she can really deliver Shakespeare – this is far more difficult and far less common than you might imagine. But O'Sullivan really knows how to make the phrases live, she is consistently spot on with which words to give weight to, which phrases to linger on.

She is ably supported in the performance by Fearghal Murray at the piano and acknowledgement must also be made to the director Elizabeth Freestone – both of whom also collaborated in the adaptation.

My adage may be in danger of becoming overused but I think this is once again proof that simple is best. As for O'Sullivan, having somehow failed to know about her up to now I shall be keeping a close eye out for her from now on. I don't know if this is touring anywhere else, but if it comes near you, don't miss it.

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