Review: The Rape of Lucrece, Southbank Centre

“Do wounds help wounds, or grief help grievous deeds”

Not much to say aside from ‘wow’ at the fiercely committed performance from Camille O’Sullivan who delivers Shakespeare’s epic poem The Rape of Lucrece with musical accompaniment from Feargal Murray at the piano, original music having been composed by the both of them. The story is a tragic tale of lust, rape and politics (that old chestnut…) but it is given visceral life by O’Sullivan who inhabits both sides of the coin – she plays Lucrece, the wife of a Roman officer who boasts of her chastity, and also Tarquin, the arrogant  son of the king who sees a challenge he cannot resist. 

Its an exhilarating experience, the marriage of song and poetry expertly handled by consummate professional O’Sullivan and always interesting, as woman duels man, piano fights voice (there’s a particularly powerful moment when Murray unexpectedly changes what he’s doing), the politics of rape and the subjugation of women’s bodies never hidden as they remain sadly pertinent today. The Queen Elizabeth Hall is perhaps too big a venue for so intimately crushing a piece but its haunting spirit works nevertheless. 

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval) 
Booking until 12th July

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