It isn’t often that this reviewer sees a work by Shakespeare with which she is not in the least familiar. The Bard’s narrative poems, however, are rarely produced and this is apparently the first solo adaptation of The Rape of Lucrece, the tale of King Tarquin’s vicious violation of a friend’s wife, leading to the establishment of the Republic of Rome.
Actor Gerard Logan and director Gareth Armstrong are truly impressive in bringing the language and story to such clear life with only a bare space, a blanket, and atmospheric sound and lighting that is well-timed and well-thought-out. Even with no other Shakespeare experiences from which to draw, any audience member will be able to understand what is happening and take the characters’ journeys with them.
Logan’s passion, delivery and deep understanding of what he speaks leads us through the darkened, locked passages to the fair Lucrece, has us racked by the rapist’s black desires and painful excuses, witnessing the way he goes about securing the deed itself and then trying to deal with the lady’s resultant agonies – all this, with a sense of the art of the verse and without alienating through over-dramatic harrowing.
Occasionally, Logan might benefit from playing against the earnest manner of his delivery and by pulling back on some ‘feminine’ gestures and vocal mannerisms (he needs no such artifice to play the gentler sex). Also, there are distinct points where the physical focus could shift lower as it tends to be centred on head and upper torso (see quote below for one such moment). However, Logan’s voice, well supported physically, plays masterfully with range and volume, passions and gentle narration, and it is not surprising – indeed welcome – to learn that a recorded version is available.
Above all, the incredible force of Shakespeare’s words is made clear in this solo performance. Logan rides the verse as it should be ridden, heading clearly to the purpose of the thought with Shakespeare’s world-shaping descriptions fleshed out along the way.
The Rape of Lucrece is rare in performance and this actor’s ability with Shakespeare is, unfortunately, also rare – which makes this production one to be treasured, just as Shakespeare’s words should be. To head for the playwright’s works in joy and renewed awe after a show can only be a great result, achieved here, and this reviewer cannot resist including at least one quote. Consider the subject matter – the physical act of rape – and how much can be viscerally expressed without direct description in just these few lines:
“Why should the worm intrude the maiden bud?
Or hateful cuckoos hatch in sparrows’ nests?
Or toads infect fair founts with venom mud?”
If you wish to feel the power of Shakespeare’s words in performance, see Logan’s The Rape of Lucrece.
By Danielle Farrow
5 – 28 August (not 15, 22), 17:15 (18:15) @ Zoo Southside