Sometimes you have plans – made a commitment – and when the time comes you absolutely cannot bring yourself to face it. Long day, stress at work, under the weather – whatever it is, it just means that the last thing you want to do is leave the house.
Never have I been more glad that I dragged my sorry self out to the North Wall Arts Centre in Oxford to see Breach Theatre’s It’s True, It’s True, It’s True.
I’ve always loved Artemesia Gentileschi’s work. A 17th century Italian Baroque painter, Gentileschi is famous for taking her rapist Agostino Tassi to trial – and painting the both of them as Judith and Holofernes, with Gentileschi-as-Judith beheading Tassi-as-Holofernes. It’s a glorious statement of feminist rage – and so is this play.
It’s a subject and performance that must have been emotionally exhausting for the three actors involved. Their multi-roling was exquisite, from the accents to the body language to their interactions with each other. It was easy to forget there were only three actors on stage, and their talent is undeniable. I feel compelled to give a special mention to Sophie Steer, who blew me away with the dexterity of her acting talent.
The entire production was equal parts heavy and hilarious; brilliant jokes and devastating heartbreak galore. And all of it – all of it – absolutely resonated with the present day, despite being heavily based on the actual Italian and Latin court records from the trial itself.
The lighting too was incredible – the vignette at the end of Gentileschi’s Judith and Holofernes was quite literally a Baroque painting. You don’t need to know what the original painting that they’re imitating looks like; every element Artemesia describes earlier on – such as the shafts of light catching individual limbs – was truly beautifully captured.
For something to be given five stars, I ask myself if there’s anything that could have made the production better. It was literally just as I asked that question in the last five minutes that things started to get a little ropey. The musical element felt unnecessary, and the red scarf over the beheaded Holofernes was a tad clumsy.
But overall, it was still a brilliantly produced, well acted, and beautiful play. I’m fortunate to have seen it.