The Rape of Lucrece, Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh


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We are familiar with the one-man show, in which a single actor plays all the roles.

Camille O’Sullivan, better known for late-night Brel interpretations and fishnet tights, takes the idea to a whole new level by performing - in verse and song - Shakespeare’s 1,855 narrative-line poem. Untrained as either actor or singer, she switches between sexual predator, chaste wife and narrator, accompanied by her long-time musical collaborator, pianist Feargal Murray.

The music is rooted in jazz yet this plays like a monologue baroque opera, with spoken passages, narrative links with a musical background and then, at flashpoints, O’Sullivan letting her voice knock down the sea wall and crash over the audience. Her years of singing the darkest corners of the canon give her the power and range to switch from the monarch who immediately regrets his actions to the modest woman so overwhelmed with shame that she takes her own life.

O’Sullivan is a stronger singer than she is actress and there are one or two slightly clunky writhing moments. But on her feet, telling the story, reliving Lucrece’s tortured shame in a plain white shift, she can break your heart.

Until August 26