Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Dramaturgy of of Artemisia Gentileschi: Joan Greening @ Edfringe 2017

4TH-26TH August (not Sundays)  19.05 (50 mins)
The Space on the Mile Venue 39, Radisson Hotel, Royal Mile, EH1 1TH

A play about the first ever documented rape case that took place in 1611. The documents are still in existence. When rape takes place can a woman’s word be believed?

Artemisia Gentileschi was seventeen and already a brilliant Baroque artist.  She was raped by her father’s friend. During his trial she was tortured to see if she was telling the truth. Her hands were horribly injured and she was terrified she would never
paint again. 

The play imagines a meeting thirty three years after the trial between Artemisia and her erstwhile companion, Tuzia, who was complicit in the rape. It explores the trauma of rape and the way it has affected Artemisia’s life and career.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

I am an art lover and I had always admired the work of Artemisia Gentileschi who is one of the great Baroque artists. I read a biography of her and was appalled to find that she had been raped by her father’s friend and then at his trial, she had been tortured to see if she was telling the truth. I had read that this was the first recorded rape trial in history. 

I got hold of a translation of the trial and a play formed in my mind of a possible meeting between Artemisia and her erstwhile friend and companion, Tuzia, who was complicit in the rape.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Yes, it is. It is one of the great benefits of the theatre that it allows the writer and the performers to put over ideas which can be radical and contentious. The audience should be stirred by the content of the play and discussion should ensue. Edinburgh is an excellent example of the theatre having many different forms and the  number of shows available means that nearly every subject is covered and explored.

How did you become interested in making performance?

When I was in my thirties I found I could write! I had no idea before that time that I had any ability or talent. One day I sat down and wrote a play and I haven’t stopped since. I then found that I got a great deal of satisfaction out of directing my own plays and I nearly always do.  For me the interest is seeing my writing come to life and having the opportunity, in direction, to steer the actors to be my characters.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

The Rape of Artemisia Gentileschi was very specifically written as a two hander for two particular actors.  The production Company asked me to write the play so I was very aware of whom I was writing for and was able to visualize the actors playing the characters as I wrote.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Yes and no.  I am known as a comedy writer but I have written two others historical plays for the Edinburgh Festival. 

The Rape of Artemisia Gentileschi is a drama. I wrote Terror four years ago which was about the French Revolution and two years ago I wrote Rossetti’s Women which was about the artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his love life. This was a drama but had many funny lines.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

The horror of rape and torture and the terrible consequences for Artemisia and her life afterwards. There is also the bitter/sweet knowledge that she may never have become a famous artist without the rape which caused her to be well-known.  

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

As this is a two-hander, it is vital to make the play as visually exciting as possible. We have got beautiful costumes and some lovely props. It is also important to make the play as powerful as the original story. It was necessary to block it very carefully and make sure the moments of high drama are underlined with movement.

This original play has been devised for 5* A Drunken Sailor starring Julia  Munrow and Julia Rufey and written by award winning playwright,  Joan Greening. 

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