Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz – controversial 17th Mexican nun and esteemed poet and dramatist – may seem an unlikely protagonist to pull in the crowds at the Globe. But Helen Edmundson’s wonderfully engrossing work emphatically colonises the space, in John Dove’s excellent production, with its Renaissance amplitude and aplomb, encompassing fierce intellectual debate, Machiavellian intrigue, and a streak of irreverent comedy.
Naomi Frederick is magnificently vital as Juana as she protests her right to express her love of God through the life of the mind. She’s up against a new hard-line Archbishop (Phil Whitchurch) and Anthony Howell’s devious Bishop Santa Cruz who is turned on both by her talent for theological dispute and by her body but who betrays her out of ruthless self-protection.
Within the convent, there’s Sister Sebastiana (Rhiannon Oliver) who is Iago-like in her jealousy and subject to spurious mystical fits, while Sophia Nomvete is a comic delight and very affecting as the earthy, level-headed confidante/servant. Ending with the bleakly fanatical burning of a woman’s books, the play raises issues that painfully resonate today.
To 5 September (020 7401 9919)Reuse content