Saturday 8th October 2022 at Corbett Theatre, London
Reviewer: Issy Flower
Writer Miriam Babooram and director Karina Aviva Benjamin’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece holds promise, but overreaches at times—this collision of the old and the new tries too hard to make its themes relevant, but in doing so produces some gorgeous theatrical images and memorable performances.
The dying days of the Roman monarchy. After her husband boasts about her to cruel Prince Tarquinius, Lucrece is raped and having informed her husband, dies. The male members of her family then set out on a crusade to avenge her, and in doing so establish the Roman Republic. A powerful story then, both political and emotional, and these themes and the sexual situations described are handled well, particularly in Benjamin’s use of physical theatre to depict the rape.
Less successful is the use of a chorus of five actresses (Joyce Lim, Dela Ruth Hini, Sam Dean, Carmina Bernhardt, Susu Ahmed) to portray Lucrece. While in some scenes (and particularly, if a little too overtly, the ending) this is effective and adds tension and terror, as well as demonstrating each performer’s acting skill, it renders some of the action difficult to follow, particularly the death scene. It also prevents the audience from making a real emotional connection with Lucrece, instead seeing her as a cipher or metaphor only, a Shakespearean element that could’ve been modernised.
The male performers are also excellent, especially as they drive the second half of the story. Jimmy Roberts as Tarquinius and Vinesh Veerasami as Collatinus particularly shine, the former displaying a seductively horrifying lust and the latter true despair—Lucrece is humanised by her husband as much as anything. Strong support also comes from Ashley Dunstock as Lucretius and Harry Campion as Brutus but, as they have less to do, make a lesser impact.
Babooram and Benjamin’s production aims for the moon but lands among the stars. At times a little confused and hard to follow, at times a tad lacking in depth, it is nevertheless entertaining, well-performed and enjoyable. The audience is left with crushed flowers; fallen rosepetals; five women standing, undaunted to face a new age. It might not be perfect, but it’s difficult to forget.
Destruction of a Woman has completed its run at the Corbett Theatre, but you can check out other listings at the East 15 Acting School here.
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