In conversation with the cast and crew of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore

The Edinburgh University Theatre Company’s upcoming production of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore aims to update a shocking seventeenth-century play for modern audiences. It is a tragedy concerning the siblings and incestuous lovers Giovanni and Annabella. In the week leading up to the first performance, The Student spoke with director Jane Prinsley and lead performer Natalie Lewis.

Natalie, tell us a bit about your character.

N: Annabella is actually really gutsy, and incredibly brave and courageous. She’s definitely got her flaws, but she’s ultimately really willing to stand up for herself and accept her flaws.

So you wanted to emphasise her bravery – was there anything else you wanted to emphasise?

N: I wanted to get that slightly feisty, slightly patronising, slightly sarcastic and sassy side to her. I think she’s aware of the fact that she’s got a lot of people after her, and she’s got the upper hand in a lot of situations, and I wanted to show that she had a slight air of cockiness about her that is suddenly pulled down straight away. It’s not necessarily a cockiness in a bad way, but a knowledge of her worth and the power that she holds over different people.

So she’s not a paradigm of virtue, like she’s been painted in the past?

N: Exactly, at least in this interpretation, in a different one it might be completely different. But yeah, I wanted to make her a bit more of a modern woman, appropriate to the nineties setting as opposed to the Jacobean setting. But even in the core script, you can tell that she knows she has the upper hand in some situations, and that’s something that falls apart later.

What sort of challenges did you come across while trying to portray her?

N: I think first it was very easy to slip into making her that wet-wipe, and making her into everyone else’s toy to play with, just because yeah, you could interpret the script like that. So altering it to make her a bit more gutsy, and give her that agency, that was probably a big one.

I think also portraying her really sincere love for her brother, because obviously that’s not something I can relate to, and she’s in a really tragic situation which I can’t relate to at all. So bringing that to life and making it as sincere and heartfelt and loving as possible.

Jane, your version of the play takes place in the nineties – why then?

J: I think the nineties are a bit more of an aesthetic choice than anything else. We wanted to do an immersive show in a club, and we wanted it to be grungy, we wanted to include electro music, techno music, a lot of leather, a lot of blood. And that just really lent itself well to the nineties. It’s a mix between Trainspotting and Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet, aesthetically. So it’s fun, and I think because it’s such an old script and it’s such a shocking script, it needs more of a youthful energy, and this vibrancy you can get from the nineties.

Obviously it’s a story about incest, which is something that we as a society still think of as taboo. But if you think of incest as a metaphor in the play for pure love that goes against society’s wishes, you can take that in so many different cultural directions. So we just needed a way to show a contrast between that pure love and this really sinful world. Some of the cultural connotations of the nineties are as a druggy, rave-y era. It really is just grunge. It’s grim and grey and dark.

What has making the production been like?

N: It’s been so much fun. It’s been really interesting to see how the cast has gelled together. I find it really interesting to look back at old notes that I made in the script when we first played around and tried stuff out, and then went ‘oh crikey, that doesn’t work, let’s flip it over,’ and there are just so many different ways of interpreting it that we’ve tried out and trial-and-error-ed. Everyone’s so motivated.

Female relationships have a strong presence in the script. How did you navigate that?

N: There’s a sense of Putana [Annabella’s maid in the original play] being that person to bring out Annabella’s feelings, and bring out what she’s really trying to say. Annabella does tell her literally everything. They’re very similar in age and we’re portraying them as being quite equal, so it’s not so much the relationship of a servant and a member of the aristocracy. It’s interesting to see such a tight-knit friendship.

Why should people see this play?

J: I don’t think they will have seen anything like it. We’re really trying to give this immersive experience. It’s a story like no other, it’s lasted hundreds of years for a reason. It’s never been properly retold. Take Romeo and Juliet, for example – how many versions do we all know of Romeo and Juliet? ’Tis Pity is lying dusty on the shelves of history, but it’s such a page-turner of a play. It’s still really shocking, it still will get gasps. It’s got probably the most epic stage direction in it ever, which I won’t say because it spoils the plot – but it’s a really big deal! You might not like it, but you will be entertained.

N: It’s more of an endurance than an enjoyance. It’s a really intense show, but that’s exactly the reason why it’s so great. People have maybe pussyfooted around it because it’s such a taboo and quite an uncomfortable subject. You’re going to be shocked, maybe feel a bit uncomfortable, but it’s gonna be so much fun.

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore runs at The Hive nightclub between 9-11 February, 2020.

 

Featured image credit: Andrew Perry

Related News

Comments are closed

The Student Newspaper 2016