Theatre review: Lucrece, Auckland Shakespeare Company

By Paul Simei-Barton

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Anthea Hill is Lucrece in Auckland Shakespeare Company's first production. Picture / Adam Baines
Anthea Hill is Lucrece in Auckland Shakespeare Company's first production. Picture / Adam Baines

On the 400th anniversary of his death, the enduring relevance of the Bard has been emphatically demonstrated by an outpouring of Shakespearean drama - from the triumph of the Pop-up Globe through to university productions and a wildly exuberant Pacific Island interpretation of Macbeth.

The well-heeled established companies have missed the party and it has been younger practitioners on shoe-string budgets who have thrown themselves into the challenging and deeply rewarding task of interpreting Shakespeare's densely poetic language.

The Auckland Shakespeare Company turned to crowd funding for their first professional production which breathes life into one of Shakespeare least known works. The Rape of Lucrece is a narrative poem retelling a historical legend about the son of tyrannical Roman king who raped Lucretia, the noble wife of a Roman soldier.

Shakespeare highlights the calculating malevolence of the act and shows how the harm done to the victim spreads outwards to her family until the entire society is forced to confront the way rape debases our humanity.

Director Rita Stone's intelligent staging uses a masked chorus to intensify the drama while Paul McLaney's sensitive music is tightly aligned to the rhythms of Shakespeare's verse.

By alternating between descriptive narration and direct speech, the production creates a distancing effect which encourages the audience to immerse themselves in the language and contemplate Shakespeare's compelling insights into the human condition.

The narration is handled with great clarity by Daniel Watterson, playing the enraged husband, and Sheena Irving giving a voice to Lucretia's devoted maid. Calum Gittins portrays the rapist as an eloquent narcissist who has a sophisticated awareness of his own evil; Anthea Hill's remarkable performance combines raw emotion with a steely resolve that is summoned up in Lucretia's decision to bear witness against the man who raped her.

What: Lucrece
Where: The Auckland Performing Arts Centre (TAPAC); until Sunday

- NZ Herald

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