It’s True, It’s True, It’s True
created using a devising process with the cast and verbatim material.
Breach Theatre at Barbican Theatre, London YouTube channel until 17th May 2020
Age guidance: 14+
Contains: strobe lighting, nudity, strong language, violence and sexual violence.
Running time: 75 mins. Review Mark Courtice 5th May 2020
Breach Theatre’s ingenious re-creation (mainly from court reports) of the trial following Artemisia Gentileschi’s allegation of rape against her painting teacher Agostino Tassi is very good. It’s upsetting, direct, furious and brave. Tassi falsely promised the 15 year old girl marriage, and now brings the familiar male panoply of entitlement, lies and character assassination to wriggle out from the charges.
This is hard-hitting stuff with graphic descriptions of the rape and no time at all for the moral swamp the men inhabit. Although this happened in 1612, the rage here is right up to the minute – as they say “It is true for ever”. This timeshifting is reflected in the super punk/classical score and modern language.
The four actors slip easily from one character to another, from courageous Artemisia to Tasso himself, a swaggering brute. The trial is slanted from the start, Gentileschi is required to put her hands to the thumbscrews (despite being a painter and the complainant) because the accused is a painter for the Pope.
Under classical arches, the flexible set is scattered with easels and paint pots, all in industrial metal. It’s very evocative, and nothing is wasted. The costumes change quickly, they are vaguely historical with high collars and immaculate cuffs. Lighting creates pools of darkness from which scenes appear. Often the stage is bathed in honey light like the varnish on an old master because this play never forgets that this is the story of a painter, an important artist who transmuted her rage and impotence into extraordinary images, here recreated on stage. It’s beautifully filmed with rich colour, absorbing shots held for just long enough, and moments of movie effects that make it more than a video version of a stage play while remaining true to its creative genesis.
Director: Billy Barrett & Ellice Stevens
Producer: Ellie Claughton
Dramaturg: Dorothey Allen-Pickard
Set Design: Luke W. Robson
Costume Design Kitty Hawkins
Lighting Design Lucy Adams