Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Gerard Logan (Olivier Award nominee and RSC actor) stars in the first ever solo adaptation of William Shakespeare’s brilliant, brutal narrative poem about the dreadful crime of rape and its aftershock.
The Rape of Lucrece is included in most copies of the ‘complete’ works of Shakespeare. Yet it is a much overlooked masterpiece touching on some of the cannon’s most popular themes. A black-hearted villain confides his intentions, frustrations and contradictions. An indomitable woman, pure of heart and proud of spirit sets an example to all. The times depicted are turbulent and of lasting consequence. Lucrece is set at the moment when the ancient Romans cast out kingship in favour of the republic which would endure until the age of Pompey and Caesar.
Prince Sextus Tarquinius, third son of the King of Rome, determines to ravish the beautiful noblewoman Lucrece. When the crime is done, Lucrece commits suicide. Her personal tragedy brings about an epoch shattering revenge on the House of Tarquin at the hands of Lucrece’s husband and father as well as the first Brutus. Among the attributes of Shakespeare’s genius is the ability to scale human emotion against the grandeur of history. His Lucrece is also an extraordinary example of poetical craftsmanship. In the plays Shakespeare’s poetry is most obviously on show in the great soliloquies which sparkle securely buttressed by dialogue. The lyricism of Lucrece is exposed – it is raw, savage and violent.
Gerard Logan holds his audience spell bound. His delivery is faultless. Each moment of the drama, each facet of each character has been painstakingly polished and orientated. Particular highlights include Tarquin’s conflicts in the antebellum and the revelation of Brutus’ true nature postbellum. The performance rises from a ripple into a tidal wave of brutal passion smashing the poem open. Lucrece is a triumphal partnership between Logan and his director Gareth Armstrong who has ensured that every stitch of canvas has been set at the exact moment so as best catch the tempest.
Though Fringingly minimal, the staging perfectly amplifies Logan’s delivery. Well-chosen instrumental blasts serve to demarcate the phases of the narration and give Logan – and often more essentially his audience – a moment to breathe. The lighting too works wonders from a dusky opening, through the darkness of the deed, to a cold morning light drenching the aftermath. A simple white shawl is all the property Logan takes with him onto the stage. It is used as only the best trained actor can use a prop – to great and subtle effect without becoming contrived.
This is an extraordinary production showcasing extraordinary talent. It is hard to think of a production which has done, or could do, more to illuminate and honour the poetry of Avon’s Bard.