A revival of Whelan’s play about Shakespeare’s eldest daughter seems apt in 2016 as celebrations of the Bard surround us.
Here the focus is on Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna. Based on the real life event of 1613 when it is written that Susanna Hall was publicly accused of adultery with her neighbour. Susanna is married to a respected Doctor, John Hall, who chooses to stand by her, suing her accuser for slander. Their lives are thrown into the public domain and the scandal threatens to destroy lives and reputations as it reaches trial in Worcester Cathedral.
It is an interesting study, there is much embellishment and supposition of what might have occurred between Susanna and Rafe Smith and whilst historically she was cleared of all wrong doing, Whelan suggests what might have happened and if so what lengths you are prepared to go to in order to clear your name.
Society and attitudes prevail at such a turbulent time and here we see the Church versus medicine and ultimately truth versus honour.
Susanna (Emma Lowndes) is an intelligent, independent wife who yearns for affection; Rafe Smith (Philip Correia) is in a loveless marriage and their paths are destined to collide.
The performances are excellent and the set exquisite. Designer Jonathan Fensom has created a picture perfect herb garden, the space for healing as well as moonlit meetings; which seamlessly becomes the sterile, cold Cathedral under the gaze of the superb examination of Barnabus Goche (Michael Mears.)
There is much to be discussed surrounding truth and loyalty alongside the damage of slander of gossip. Here Whelan presents us with a glimpse into the lives of those teetering on the edge of ruin, which inevitably leaves some characters clearly in a far superior situation than others.
**** – 4 Stars