7 February 2012 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews Love, passion, sex and amorality; these are the themes explored in Ford's play. Like Nick Ormerod's set, where Christ's image is consigned to a small postcard on a wardrobe whilst the walls promote stories of forbidden and doomed love, so this tale examines what happens when passion, not morality, rules the protagonists and the inevitable tragedy that follows.
Annabella and Giovanni are passionately in love; they are also brother and sister. Defying the laws which prevent them from consummating their love, they set in motion a chain of events which ultimately lead to tragedy. Ford's play, in the hands of Cheek by Jowl, is an uncomfortable experience. The bordello red set, with a double bed at its centre, leaves no question that this is a tale steeped in sin and depravity. Our first look at Annabella sees her sitting on her bed, listening to her headphones like any typical teenager but, once the play proper starts she stands to reveal a black lace clad coquette whose provocative dance suggests a sexuality beyond her years. We feel like we are observing a world which has shifted on its axis. Despite the moralising of Giovanni's tutor the Friar, which opens the play, the audience feels like spectators in a peep show. The ever present chorus provided by the ensemble cast, who by turns, posture, observe and chant liturgical songs, add to this feeling of discomfiture.
The real tragedy of the play is the pronouncement of Annabella as whore, whilst all around her there is moral decay and depravity. Hippolyta's lust for Soranzo and his flagrant rejection of her in preference to the younger Annabella is reprehensible. Hipployta's plotting and the actions of the servant Vasques all push the moral boundaries that arguably Annabella is innocent of: after all she is driven by love, the same cannot be said for the actions of the other characters. Ultimately Annabella attempts to atone for her transgression and move on and still it is her fate which lies at the centre of this tragedy. Donnellan's treatment of this play is brave and exciting. The heightened theatricality, use of movement choreography and music, and outstanding cast all contribute to a theatrical event which remains in the memory long after the curtain has fallen. It is a production not to be missed.
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