The play is about the shadowy territory between personal ambition and moral responsibility and was first written for radio before being adapted for the stage in the 80s.
It stars Fiona Shaw, Jamie Ballard and Tim McInnerny, among others. Directed by Tom Cairns, Scenes from an Execution runs at the NT Lyttelton until 9 December.
…Full marks to the National, then, for reviving what is probably Barker’s best-known and most accessible piece, complete with a hulking great central part for a semi-clad Fiona Shaw…the play could morph into a blazing feminist tract or a fierce discussion about the compromises inherent in state-funded art. It dabbles tantalisingly with both, but as ever Barker tilts at too many windmills in one go and ends up saying nothing particularly original. It doesn’t help that every character is perpetually overstated, with a fierce insistence on anachronism. Still, it’s an overripe plum of a role for Shaw and there’s no doubting her commitment to the part’s physicality…And McInnerny’s equivocating Doge, patron cum tyrant, is a constant pleasure.
searching study of the fraught relationship between artist, patron, critic and political culture…In a bravura performance, Fiona Shaw brilliantly communicates the animal energy, the dishevelled, uncircumspect sensuality and the caustic, uncompromising spirit of this artist…Tim McInnerny is wonderfully absurd and sinister as a frantic, idiotically self-pitying Doge…The production, admirably alive to the play's mix of austere intellectual rigour and knockabout, anachronistic humour, presents the faux-costume drama in sets by Hildegard Bechtler that have the pure geometric beauty of modern abstract art…