Edinburgh Fringe Festival – ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore

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The theatre season in St Andrews may have come to an end but the rehearsals still continue in tucked away rooms of the Union and the Barron Theatre. A variety of shows will be travelling to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer made up of production teams and casts of our very own students. One such is Wanton Theatre’s production of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. The Saint spoke to director Ryan Hay and publicity director Mishia Leggett about their hopes for the production and the fundraising they are doing to get to Edinburgh.

Ryan summarises the plot of this exciting drama:

“Student Giovanni returns home from being a lauded student at University, and falls in love – with his own sister, Annabella. Annabella herself is being courted by a number of suitors, but no love is as great as that between she and her brother. After an unexpected pregnancy, Annabella is forced to marry the power-hungry Soranzo, and disaster follows. ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore is John Ford’s Jacobean parody of Romeo and Juliet: incest, passion, blood, and a disembodied heart create a ritualistic spectacle that questions the bounds not only of conventional theatre, but also of conventional morality.”

As well as presenting an intriguing story, the team wishes to provide a platform for discussion about the question of morality, something that Ryan explains:

“Our production of this very old play wants to question the nature of taboo. When this play was first staged, it was on the outside of city walls, because its subject matter was too controversial for production inside the city. Of course, it was incredibly popular anyway. In the 1630’s there was a huge amount of censorship in polite society, and we are reaching a point now where some censorship is returning (consider the NUS ‘no platforming’ policy), and I believe that this is something that we need to talk about.

“If this play is done correctly, an audience comes out feeling conflicted: we are enormously invested in the beauty of Annabella and Giovanni’s relationship, but we cannot condone its incestuous nature. The production begs the question – how far is too far? Why are certain things now morally permissible which, in 1630, were not? Why is it that incest is still where we draw the proverbial line?”

Mishia tells us about the extraordinary talent which the production is fostering:

“Danielle Donnally, Ryan Hay and I founded Wanton Theatre (http://wantontheatre.org), a production company focused on creating work that pays great attention to both textual and theatrical detail. Ryan Hay is directing this summer’s production, Danielle is producing and I’m doing publicity.  The wonderful Al Gillespie has been our graphic designer, and Emily Hepher will be our Stage Manager. On top of that we have an extremely talented cast consisting of Ellie Burke, Louis Catliff, Jared Liebmiller, Elliot Douglas, Isabelle Duff, Noah Liebmiller, Jack Briggs, Hannah Raymond-Cox, Sarah Chamberlain and Chuck Jaco. Everyone involved is extremely talented (we have three Golden Seashell winners involved) and we can’t wait to perform ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore in August!”

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The Fringe is quite unlike any other performance experience with access to huge crowds of people from all over the world who flock to the cobbled streets of Edinburgh. Ryan explains why the team wants to take their production south to the capital:

“I really believe that there are moments in the world of St Andrews drama that are of an incredibly high standard. It’s a little bit like a repertory theatre: the fairly small group who make up the actors and theatre makers in this town push themselves to more ambitious and better-executed projects year on year, forming amazing working relationships as they go. As a team, we want to take a little bit of that to the largest (and my favourite) Arts festival in the world – show them what St Andrews drama can do.”

As well as entertaining the audience and being a credit to those of us in St Andrews, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore will enhance the artistic lives of all those involved. Ryan explains the importance of having this opportunity:

“The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is like nothing we can offer in St Andrews. With a week of full-time rehearsal in the summer, and a 14-show run at an incredibly busy Arts festival, this is a real test for every member of cast and crew. The production team and actors have to work together on a whole different level in order to replicate their show over and over again, and to keep its energy at the same incredibly high level.

“This is an experience incredibly close to working in professional theatre, and every member of the cast and crew benefits from this – the cast have to be on-the-ball at all times, and have much longer to get to grip with their characters, while the crew have to be incredibly organised, but can afford to be a little more ambitious than in St Andrews, because we have a little longer to put things together. There is always a chance that a Fringe show will be the platform for an actor, producer, director into the professional theatre world, and it is this sense of opportunity that creates the excitement which permeates the city in August.

“It’s also a wonderful experience for a group of students – to work together on such an ambitious project, to receive reviews from national press, and to be a part of such an amazing festival is a priceless experience.”

While some St Andrews Fringe productions are funded by Mermaids, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore is self-funded. Mishia explains:

“This is a self-funded show. We’re so passionate about this play, but the Fringe is incredibly expensive so we’re not able to fully finance it ourselves. Therefore, we’re hoping to crowdfund as much money as possible, with an aim of raising £1500 to pay for venue costs. I can’t stress enough how much every little helps; even just a few pounds will add to the total amount, helping us put on an incredible production!”

This production is an incredibly enticing proposition, one that any theatre lover should endeavour to see. Though first it has to reach the stage. Any donations can be made through the link below. The Saint wishes all involved the very best of luck!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/tis-pity-she-s-a-whore-at-the-edinburgh-fringe/x/7956521#/

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