Creativity Magazine

The Rape Of Lucrece, Camille O'Sullivan, Review

By Lee Bemrose @LeeBemrose
The Rape Of Lucrece, Camille O'Sullivan, Review(Photo from The Guardian, UK)
The Rape Of Lucrece
By William Shakespeare.Performed by Camille O'Sullivan and Feargal Murray.Directed by Elizabeth Freestone.MTC until Feb 10.
It's Shakespeare, Jim, but not as we know it. Or, it's Camille O'Sullivan, Jim, but not as we know her.
Okay, so there's more truth in the former than the latter. This is Shakespeare, but it's a lesser known work, a very long, tragic poem. It was not written for the stage and was not written as music and song. And yet...
And it is Camille O'Sullivan, just not the unpredictable wild cat of cabaret that we're used to. But it is the dark Camille who sometimes turns her brooding gaze and devastatingly, powerfully, emotional voice upon us.
The story is legendary and partly historical, although it's debatable how much of Shakespeare's version is accurate. Lucrece is the chaste wife of Roman nobleman Collatine who is raped by the king's son Tarquin when he hears of her purity and decides to put it to the test. Devastated by the act, Lucrece kills herself, in doing so bringing about the fall of the Roman royal family and the establishment of the Roman republic.
It's a big story. It's a long poem. But this Royal Shakespeare Company production has it pared back to around an hour and a half with the emphasis not so much on the political as the personal. Here, we get an insight into the mindset of rapist Tarquin and victim Lucrece, both played impressively by Camille O'Sullivan. The result is unsettling (Tarquin is portrayed with a degree of sympathy, regretting his crime) and unrelentingly compelling.
Where this reviewer went along as a fan of Shakespeare, I went along as a fan of Camille. In reality, this is a perfect match. Murray and O'Sullivan have done a fine job of turning the Bard's words, at times, into contemporary-sounding songs. I guess the text lends itself to song so well due to the rhythm of the prose, which is not to take credit away from the two musical collaborators on stage; they have done an impressive job.
But for me it's the performance that shines. Poetic recital gives way to to song, Camille inhabits these two extreme opposites, and when she unleashes that raw emotion... well, it's breath-taking stuff. You don't doubt for a second that she is feeling the emotion she is conveying because you feel it too; the standing ovation was not unwarranted.
It was nice to see Camille return to the stage as the applause broke out and smile and scratch the air with her cat claws. I look forward to seeing humor in her next show, but I wouldn't have missed this one for anything.
 Go to Australian Stage for my recent interview with Camille.

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