(The Making of) Tis Pity She’s a Whore at P.A.C.

October 24, 2013


The problem with Siren Productions’ Tis Pity She’s a Whore (prefixed here with The Making Of) is that it tries to piss down both legs of its trousers. It starts with an intriguing concept, where Louis Lovett plays Giovani, the obsessive, incestuous brother imagined by John Ford, as well as the actor/writer/director creating the part for the silver screen, using only the playwrights words. Through live performance director Selina Cartmel brings to life the mundane bedlam of a film set and then lends cinematic scope to the periphery characters who appear in prerecorded segments shown on three screens. The live ensemble deliver their lines in rehearsal, during filming or as flirtatious asides, switching in and out of their dual roles with a snap of the clapper board as a wordless chorus, the film crew help enforce the abstraction.

With the successful creation of two worlds however comes a severing of emotion. Which in itself is not a problem. It’s when Cartmell takes her eye of her artifice and starts following Ford’s emotional trajectory in the second half, rather than giving more definition to her own vision, that things slightly unravel. The fragmented structure of the piece allows no genuine connection to be made with the characters. The whole project would have succeeded better had she more clearly focused in on the fanatical auteur and his inability to decipher the line between art and actuality instead of a sustained murmured reverence to the original story.

The supporting cast are terrific. Cathy Belton is the wronged Hippolita, crunching into the text and vamping it up with glee, her girlish and noxious exchanges with Phelim Drew (Soranzo and Vasquez) easily being the shows best; Kate Stanley Brennan captures the stubborn yearning of Anabella and the discomfort of the sexually harassed actress; while Barbara Brennan as the warped lady in waiting, Putana, plays the deluded kook to the hilt.

Louis Lovett’s decision to play both his characters in the same way, however, rather than starting with two distinct characterisations which merge as he descends into madness, further clouded the journey his character was supposed to take. Never a credible lover and an overstated psychopath, we don’t see him go mad before our eyes or feel the effect the words he has written has on him. He is manipulating art for lifes sake but you never really feel that much is at stake so his ruin lacks any real impact.

What’s great about Cartmell, however, is that she is like a rare whiskey. The first sip might make you grimace but the strong after taste will have you talking through the night. Even her failures work because she engages you with her process. Has you guessing, dissecting and deliberating every desicion. And while Tis Pity has its faults, they are imaginative faults, faults which are the product of risk, which make them so much more pleasurable than safe successes.

You’ll admire the way she keeps the set in constant motion even if it does mean that it takes a while for the pieces to fit. You’ll enjoy her decision to have Hippolita vamp it up, Dietrich style, even if delivering the verse in song loses the power contained within the text. And you’ll love her use of Killian Waters video design, containing, as it does, most of the nights best performances (Paul Reid and Simon Delaney as a Laurel and Hardyesque master and servant, Lorcan Cranitch as the unknowing pater and Tom Hickey and John Kavanagh as the nervy and nefarious clergy). The neo-noir style does sanitise the savage, vulgarity however, more suiting the style of the concept than the substance in the text.

Which, I guess, sums the whole project up. You end up more interested in the productions execution than the story’s outcome. It’s still well worth a watch.

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