The Rape of Lucrece is one of Shakespeare’s long poems written early in his career. Military officers away on campaign boast about the virtues of their wives, with Collatine bragging about how his wife, Lucrece, is the most beautiful and virtuous in Rome. His boasting arouses the lust of Prince Tarquin and he returns to Rome determined to have Lucrece.
This trimmed version of the poem concentrates on the main figures, Whoopie van Raam is a dignified and reserved Lucrece, deserving better than her objectification by the bragging Collatine and the entitled Tarquin, both played by Jacob Fortune-Lloyd who cuts an imposing masculine figure. Though the most comfortable with Shakespeare’s verse is Isabella Marshall, an assured presence as the narrator.
However, the production is rather well mannered and the horror of Tarquin’s actions and Lucrece’s response is not as effective as it could be, with much of the drama created by an impressive sound design.
This adaption is set in the round with audience on all four sides, and good use is made of the space to ensure the audience always has clear sightlines as non-speaking actors move to the diagonals and the choreography works well to constantly rotate the action without feeling contrived or forced, though it is all rather stately and lacking in dynamism. Apart from candles on the perimeter of the stage the only props are a red mattress rolled out to form a bed and a white sheet. They promised much in terms of the imagery they provided and perhaps more could have been made of them.
Lucrece is an effective introduction to one of Shakespeare’s lesser known works, but needs a little more edge to really catch fire.