Without beating around the bush too much, Commensal’s production of John Ford’s play Tis Pity She’s a Whore is a resounding success. The seventeenth century tale of incest and blood is rendered in a way that preserves the integrity of the original text, it’s serious shock value, but paints the play (using ketchup and a pigs heart as a brush, may I add) in a fresh light that many productions often fail to do.
Audiences are always wary when a production adopts a different time period to the original. Yet, Commensal’s production succeeds in utilising a modern staging whilst maintaining the integrity of the original script and plot. The modern innovations on the Luhrman-esque stage enhance the original play text, as opposed to detracting from it. The highlight of this successful fusion is the blending of excellent live music with contemporary (quite often risqué) fantasised dance routines that transport the lusting desires of both Soranzo and Giovanni onto the stage. The audience can’t help but laugh when Annabella asks demurely ‘Sir, what you will with me?’ after she has just proceeded to throw herself around the central platform of the stage in a highly suggestive way. The performance is littered with these little comic moments of reinvention like this that provide the audience with a brief reprieve from the intense and violent plot, and the audience resounds every time with a great deal of laughter.
An energetic cast keeps the cast moving, preventing there from ever being a slow moment as the performance mounts towards the ending climax. It is at this point that Giovanni thrusts himself into the limelight with an impassioned performance that sticks in the mind of every member of the audience as they leave. But I won’t spoil this (gory) surprise that still continues to shock centuries later. Let’s just say that the audience should feel more pity for the strong stomached cleaners left to deal with the aftermath than Annabella. But anyone can put up with a bit of blood in return for such a fantastic performance.