Saturday, 23 May 1998
Lucrezia and Cesare, May 23, 1998
Lucrezia and Cesare by Raimondo Cortese
Ranters Theatre Theatreworks until June, 1998
Reviewer; Kate Herbert
Reviewed around May 22, 1998
A dubious fascination with sex and violence is the pivot of Raimondo Cortese's early play, Lucrezia and Cesare.
His character, Cesare, describes sex as "a despicable blend of tenderness and brutality." However, the play explores sado-masochism further than this.
This re-worked script, directed by Adriano Cortese and performed by Zoe Burton and David Tredinnick, is the fourth production of the play since 1992. Trapped in a half-lit cell riddled with bugs and vermin and without food or water, these two distant echoes of the mediaeval Borgia siblings rant, seduce and indulge their shared obsessions and sexual fantasies related to murder and suicide. The space is dangerous, their behaviour unpredictable and irrational.
Their relationship is built on repeated rituals in which they spit venom, abuse and curse one another. The opening, taunting monologue is reminiscent of Genet's The Maids who daily role play the demeaning and murder of their Mistress. The incest
Cortese's writing often wittily counterpoints poetic and the conversational language. It is often lurid in its imagery and he is faint-hearted about using the graphic and scatological.
Others of Cortese's works have been more successful: Features of Blown Youth has a raw, contemporary inner urban angst and Petroleum is a poignant study of two women who are strangers. Lucrezia and Cesare lacks the complexity of character development or narrative of these later plays.
The problems arise in the repetitiveness of its action. The two characters seem to go on no journey. Of course, it is cyclic and their days repeat themselves but this provides limited dramatic tension and dynamic range in the characters.
Burton is seductive and sensual as the tigress, Lucrezia. Tredinnick, in his inimitable way, finds a fine balance between the absurd and the terrifying in the Jack-the-Ripper-like Cesare. The design by Jaqueline Everitt complements the interesting abstraction of the direction.
In spite of its wild fantasies, its blatant seductions, its challenge of taboos and attempts to shock us with urination and excrement, the piece remains oddly cool and passionless.