Review: 'Tis Pity She's a Whore at Flow Studios

Review By James Ong


‘A tale of love, incest and murder’: a tantalising tagline for the debut production of the freshly minted The Company (a brainchild of several ACA graduates). ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore is an impressive, though plainly uncomfortable rollercoaster. It may lack an experienced hand for nuance, but there is clear passion and creativity on display in this impactful and gripping retelling of John Ford’s *ahem* classic work. We follow the confident and affable Annabella (Olivia Hall-Smith), who is lusted after by most young bachelors in town, yet it is her sorrowful and manipulate brother Giovanni (Bayley Prendergast) that seems to pluck her forbidden heart strings just right and we soon tumble down a hole filled with sin, moral turbulence and men who feel scorned turning to savages. The creative team, headed by directors Harry Reid and Talia Benatar, has made efforts to bring this relic from the 1600s into the modern day, removing much of the explicitly xenophobic fluff that litters Ford’s original script to make the plot both relevant and brisk enough for a contemporary and (hopefully feminist) audience to digest. The stubbornly not-so-outdated elements of misogyny and gendered coercion remain in full force however, yet are buoyed by a through line of dark and bitter humour. A pattern worth noting, however, is that the more explicitly violent deaths are reserved for the female characters - in fact all of the female characters and it has left unwelcome aftertaste. While I understand the depiction of the abhorrent history of violence women have been subjected to, it seems to lean towards mean-spirited than cold-hearted reality. Quite peculiar then that the original work actually kept the descriptions of these deaths quite sparse (and often offstage). In two instances, death sequences were extended from the source material and included an unexpected level of practical gore and viscera. Considering the lack of content warnings it was quite a lingering effect once the initial shock dissipated. No doubt this was the intention - to have the audience stew in the unflinching depiction of abuse - though I’m uncertain if the graphic shedding of blood is truly necessary to get the intended effect. That being said, the SFX and props work is truly a remarkable achievement. Considering the close proximity of the cozy Flow Studios in Camperdown, the cleverly concealed blood bags, confrontingly realistic organs and a seemingly innocent egg are nothing less than incredible and add bounds to what would otherwise seem a barebones production. It’s also clear that physical performance was a key focus in crafting ’Tis Pity, with several choreographed sequences shining through as remarkably touching moments in what is an emotionally knotty narrative. The moments of calm admiration amongst a swathe of turmoil and trauma. Despite some missteps in judgement and a blunt-force approach to some difficult topics, ’Tis Pity is a strangely transfixing experience - filled with brutality, debauchery and undeniable humour at every corner.

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