Monday, 7 September 2015

'The Heresy of Love' Shakespeare's Globe ***

At specific points in world history, the woman was perceived and treated as a second or third class citizen and could not perform certain jobs or practices that only men could do and when a person in the religious circuit is involved in playwriting this would prove too inappropriate. The production of Helen Edmundson’s 2012 play, ‘The Heresy of Love’ was an interesting story of the trials and tribulations of a woman who wanted to express her talents, as well as, the depictions were brilliantly portrayed.

‘The Heresy of Love’ is set in 17th Century Mexico where we are introduced to nun, Sister Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz who has a concealed flair for writing plays, in Mexico her work is cherished by those in the courts, on the other hand, the church are far from impressed by her talent.  This is clearly visible when new male chauvinist, Archbishop Aguiar y Sejas (Phil Whitchurch) tries to prevent her work from being published, read and performed.  However, a supporter of her work is in fact Bishop Santa Cruz, furthermore, there appears to be a hint of fondness for each other that soon turns into total betrayal.  Over the course of the performance, we learn that a great deal of people in the convent are envious of Sor Juana’s abilities to compose both poetry and playwriting; such as Sister Sebastiana (Rhiannon Oliver) who schemes behind her fellow nun’s back to completely ruin her reputation. Over the course of the performance, there is another love story that is blossoming through  and that is between young girl, Angelica (Gwyneth Keyworth) and large nobleman, Don Hernando (Gary Shelford) which is also a controversial move on their part as they are witnessed snogging.  What is most tragic is that Sor Juana has to state that what she has written and that her opinions are fundamentally untrue and not worthy of being read and that she will have to renew her vows to save her life.  In addition, she will have to cease writing and that all books in Mexico will have to be burnt on a monumental fire. Her friendship with Santa Cruz is eradicated as he deceives her right in front of the court men and church, which understandably upset her immensely and before the court case, Sor Juana has been self-harming due to the pain and hurt. This has been affecting those closes to her i.e. Mother Margarita (Gabrielle Lloyd) and maid, Juanita (Sophia Nomvete) as they are seeing her misery magnify. At the final, all of Sur Juana’s books are removed to be burnt on the fire and she is soon taken to be tried for her crimes against her religion and her position. Edmundson’s narrative is a seamlessly fitting account of a woman who wanted to amend people’s views of woman and what the can achieve, furthermore, how the church sought to damage not only her status but her mental state too.  

One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Heresy of Love’ to be wonderfully performed through noble voice work and abundant movements. Naomi Frederick is boundless as lead role, Sor Juana; primarily where her alliance with Santa Cruz is pleasing to the eye and along the way his disloyalty surprises her to the point where she commences a process of self-destruction and forces her to have emotional breakdown.  Anthony Howell us decent as Sor Juana’s so-called friend, Santa Cruz; largely how villainous we see him becoming as he knows that his association with Sor Juana will cause challenges for his chances to succeed Archbishop Aguiar Y Sejas as new archbishop of Mexico.  

John Dove’s direction is tolerable as he has staged a performance that permits us to see how women were treated in the 17th Century and how males dominated them in a ghastly manner which is depicted through Sor Juana’s constant demeaning.  Besides this, the immersive elements at the start of the performance were great too. Michael Taylor’s set and costume designs was slightly substandard at times as I was frequently confused by my whereabouts was. The costume constuction was impressive so well done to Jane Colquhoun, Jane Conin, Charles Hanrahan, Glen Hills, Megan Howell and Elisa Threadgold. Overall, the experience of, ‘The Heresy of Love’ to be a prodigious show indeed but the set design does let the production down.     

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