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Review: Botticelli in the Fire, at Hampstead Theatre

Intimate play draws parallels between the Renaissance period and contemporary society

07 November, 2019 — By Ezreen Benissan

Dickie Beau in Botticelli in the Fire. Photo: Manuel Harlan

MANY historians would say that this play is not an entirely accurate retelling of Botticelli’s life, but it is intriguing and impassioned nonetheless.

The play commences with Sandro Botticelli (Dickie Beau) breaking the fourth wall, drunkenly talking directly to the audience about what to expect from the play – “this is not just a play, it’s an extravaganza,” he says.

From the opening scene, it is apparent that Botticelli in the Fire is an intimate play (and in more ways than one).

Written by Jordan Tannahill in 2016, his intentions to make history accessible to a modern audience is clear. However, the parallels created in the Renaissance period and the contemporary society is a marriage that is difficult to comprehend, fluctuating between Botticelli sporting Stan Smiths and texting on an iPhone, to people dying from the plague and burning at the stake.

There are many movement and musical sequences that, at times, seamlessly propel the narrative forward. Movement director Polly Bennett’s work is something to be admired, particularly during a mimed game of squash.

This is a play that deals with politics and pleasure, and how the treatment and policing of hedonism has failed to develop throughout history; however, in an attempt to merge history with contemporary culture, the audience is left with an awkward and perplexing fusion of two societies.

Until November 30
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