Naked at the Jack Studio Theatre
Naked tells the story of a young woman, Ersilia Drei (Josephine Rattigan), after her suicide attempt. It later transpires that she is involved in a larger scandal involving prostitution, an affair and the death of a diplomat’s child in her care. Her case gains the attention of the press, particularly the intrusive journalist, Francesca Cantavalle, and an amorous author, Lewis Nota. Adding to the list of those making demands of her fragile state is her ex-fiancé, Naval Lieutenant Frank Last, who abandoned her for another, and her former employer, the British Consul Mr Grant, around whom the scandal revolves.
The Pirandello play is adapted by Howard Colyer to London in 1979/1980, with the backdrop of punk music interjecting a sense of desire for expression. Cantavalle, played determinedly by Victoria Hamnett, rather than being another male closing in on Drei, offers a contrast between the two woman. One is ambitious, in control and going after what she wants – in this case the story. The other is broken and has little control over her own future.
Declan Cooke’s Nota is just the right sight of lecherous, with his intentions being misguided, but not entirely malicious. Piers Hunt’s Frank Last is brash and fickle, making him untrustworthy, and Sam Adamson is suitably slithering as Mr Grant. Jean Apps stands out as Mrs Hood, the landlady in whose house the action unfolds. She is essentially the comic relief, but also acts as the voice of the people, with her quick judgements but eventual sympathy for Drei.
It is Rattigan’s Drei who carries the whole performance, portraying a delicate woman who pushes back against all the forces trying to control her, until she takes control of her life in the only way she knows how.
The intimate theatre space makes the audience feel like an extension of the play. With the actors so close, their unravelling turmoil is amplified. As voyeurs of a young woman’s struggle, the audience must consider how our society is still so quick to partake in scandal and tabloid gossip, without taking into account the real people who are affected by all of it.
Photo: Tim Stubbs Hughes
Naked is on at the Jack Studio Theatre from 12th January to 30th January 2016.